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USC football: Pac-12 uncertainty exposed in preseason coaches poll

Aug 6, 2020, 4:40 AM PDT
USC football rival ASU. (Ralph Freso/Getty Images)
USC football rival ASU. (Ralph Freso/Getty Images)
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USC football checked in at No. 17 in the preseason coaches Ppoll.

USC football isn’t ranked particularly highly in the first coaches poll of the 2020 college football season. However, relative to the rest of the conference they’re perched rather well.

The Trojans were voted No. 17, the second-highest of the Pac-12 teams ranked.

Oregon fit in at No. 9 while Utah was the only other representative of the conference at No. 20.

The coaches poll doesn’t seem certain about USC football or the Pac-12.

There were several teams from the conference who narrowly missed the cut. Those include Arizona State with 88 votes, Washington with 65 votes, Washington State with 6 votes, Cal with five votes and Stanford with two votes.

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The coaches don’t know what to make of the Pac-12 standings for the coming season.

Oregon is an easy pick as the favorite to win the conference title. However, even the Ducks have serious questions to answer. Quarterback Justin Herbert is off to the NFL while four of the five offensive linemen who dominated in the trenches are gone. That likely accounts for the fringe Top 10 ranking.

USC has more questions to answer, though the presence of quarterback Kedon Slovis and talent across the roster means there is plenty of potential to mine.

Of the ranked teams, Utah has the most concerns to deal with. Kyle Whittingham may have more confidence in his coaching abilities than Clay Helton, but his squad was decimated by graduations after 2019. Quarterback Tyler Huntley is gone, so is running back Zach Moss. On defense, defensive lineman Bradlee Anae, defensive back Julian Blackmon and more have moved on.

The trouble for the Pac-12 is how many teams received votes but couldn’t get the backing to break into the Top 25.

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Arizona State is intriguing with Jayden Daniels at the helm but still needs to prove they can outperform last season’s 8-5 record.

Washington is replacing their starting quarterback and head coach Chris Petersen. That team should have built up enough legitimacy over the years to warrant a ranking, but even last year they seemed on the wane at 8-5.

Washington State was 6-7 in 2019 and they are undergoing a major transition under Nick Rolovich.

Cal seems to be going in the right direction under Justin Wilcox. Their ceiling is undetermined still.

As for David Shaw’s Stanford, a 4-8 record last year has undercut all expectations for 2020.

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For the optimist, having so many teams on the cusp means the Pac-12 is set up as a potentially strong conference.

For the pessimist, the knowledge that each and every one of those teams might not take the next step necessary is a major worry.

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