USC football ranked in typical spot in preseason AP poll despite atypical season

USC football head coach Clay Helton. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
USC football head coach Clay Helton. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

USC football is ranked in the preseason AP Top 25 despite the canceled fall season.

You’d almost think it was a normal USC football August as the Trojans were voted a typically-uncertain No. 17 in the preseason AP Top 25.

That ranking, however, comes with an asterisk. USC, like all the teams in the Pac-12 and Big Ten who were featured, won’t be playing games this fall. They won’t be included in future iterations of the AP poll either.

That’s not to say this particular preseason ranking doesn’t mean anything. It reinforces everything we do and don’t know about USC seemingly every year.

USC football remains in preseason ranking purgatory.

It’s not surprising to see USC begin the fall ranked No. 17 because it’s around where they always seem to be ranked.

Since 2010, the Trojans’ average rating in the preseason has been No. 14. They failed to finish in the rankings four times but held down an average of No. 12 in five final poll appearances.

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The averages reflect the spikey nature of USC’s performance chart.

In 2010 they started 14th and ended unranked before starting 2011 at 25th and ending sixth. They started first and came down hard, unranked to finish 2012.

Thus began the years of purgatory. Preseason ranks beginning in 2013 included No. 24, No. 15, No. 8, No. 20, No. 4 and No. 15. They opened 2019 on the outside of the poll for the first time since 2001.

Being back in the preseason AP poll is better than nothing. At least USC won’t start a trend of missing out in preseason polls, going consecutive seasons without for the first time since 1958 and 1959.

At the same time, USC entered 2020 with a talent at quarterback, an exciting receiving corps and a defense littered with former five- and four-star athletes. The No. 17 ranking is far below what should be expected of the program.

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Clay Helton has started one year with a Top 10 ranking. The Trojans finished outside the Top 10 that 2017 season. Helton’s best campaign in 2016 was only the second time USC outperformed their preseason ranking in the past decade. That’s simply not good enough.

The 2020 rankings will be abnormal no matter what, but USC should still be expected to outperform their opening ranking each and every season.

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