USC football moved up to No. 12 in Stewart Mandel’s latest Top 25 as media expect improvement.
No one knows if or when the college football season in 2020 will begin, but that’s not stopping national media from taking notice of USC football’s chances to impress.
The latest of those is Stewart Mandel of The Athletic, who dropped his “Post-Spring Top 25” even though Spring Camps across the country were canceled.
Without an accounting of how USC’s quarterback battle and the progress of Todd Orlando’s defense, Mandel ranked USC No. 12.
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“Embattled coach Clay Helton has a lot of pieces to win with in 2020, starting with standout QB Kedon Slovis,” Mandel wrote in part. “New defensive coordinator Todd Orlando inherits nine returning starters, including standouts like All-Pac-12 DT Jay Tufele, DE Drake Jackson and S Talanoa Hufanga.”
The Top 12 ranking puts USC within two spots of Notre Dame at No. 10. It also poses USC as the second-best team in the Pac-12, trailing only No. 5 Oregon.
If the season goes on as planned, the Trojans will also face off with No. 2 Alabama to start the season.
USC’s final ranked opponent would be Cal, who checks in at No. 25.
Given the way the Trojans ended the 2019 season, with a spanking at the hands of Iowa, you could be forgiven for expecting very little of USC in 2020.
However, the reasons for being bullish on Troy can be compelling.
As Mandel pointed out, Slovis was an unexpectedly outstanding passer for the Trojans, fitting into Graham Harrell’s Air Raid like he was made for it.
USC is also one of the top teams in terms of returning production. The defense saw just a couple of replaceable departures. As a result, Orlando will have a defensive roster full of raw, but talented players to plug into his defense.
With any luck, the results on defense will be improved from 2019 while USC’s offense will take a step forward with a second-year quarterback and a wide receiving corps that still stands as one of the best in the Pac-12.