Where USC football would have ranked in SP+ going into 2020

Vavae Malepeai of USC football. (Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
Vavae Malepeai of USC football. (Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images) /

USC football would have ranked No. 16 in SP+ rankings for 2020.

There are going to be a ton of “what could have been” situations as the fall continues without USC football. SP+ rankings are one of those.

ESPN’s Bill Connelly published his annual preseason ranking of every college football team with the Trojans perched at No. 16.

With Oregon at No. 12 and Washington at No. 15, USC placed third in the Pac-12 and a handful of places behind No. 9 Notre Dame.

USC football remains good, but not great in advanced stats measures.

As with previous preseason rankings, the SP+ ranking of 16th proves just how “medium” USC continues to be under Clay Helton.

USC finished the 2019 season with a ranking of 22nd in SP+, so that’s at least a step up. Even better, the Trojans started the 2019 preseason ranked No. 28. The trend is moving in the right direction.

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The return of Kedon Slovis and offensive coordinator Graham Harrell no doubt benefits USC in the calculations. They were projected sixth on offense thanks to the quarterback’s exceptional freshman play and the array of returning weapons at wide receiver and running back.

The story is quite different on defense. Clancy Pendergast’s final defense at USC dropped to No. 60 nationally, which explains why the Trojans opted to make a change. Todd Orlando was slated to open the season with a projected defensive ranking of No. 42.

Even though USC won’t be playing this fall, the SP+ rankings still say plenty about the team’s potential. The real question now is how much formula will be impacted by player opt-outs and other considerations.

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The Trojans have seen just one player, defensive lineman Jay Tufele, opt-out of the presumptive spring season. Tufele’s absence will no doubt impact the top-level strength of the defense. However, USC isn’t the only one dealing with departures. Oregon All-American offensive lineman Penei Sewell declared for the NFL draft on Monday.

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