A little less than a week after USC football picked up 2021 Biletnikoff winner Jordan Addison in the transfer portal, Athlon Sports most certainly took notice. They ranked USC as their No. 9 team in their 'College Football Top 25 Rankings for 2022.'
That's just one spot behind their first-ranked team in the Pac-12, the Utah Utes. In the article, Steven Lassan first pointed something out that many USC fans and college football fans would agree with in general: "The Trojans might be college football's biggest wild-card team in 2022."
Lassan acknowledged that the Trojans made a "home run" hire with Lincoln Riley, and ravaged the portal (USC has the No. 1 transfer portal class in the nation and second-place Ole Miss is VERY far behind). He did admit, however, that it could be tough to pull everything all together at once.
"If all of the pieces fall into place, a run at the CFB Playoff is a possibility," said Lassan. "However, meshing a new staff with several transfers on both sides of the ball is no easy task."
Lassan is right about that aspect of this upcoming USC football season.
USC football fans know that sometimes what looks great on paper doesn't always look great on grass. Lassan did, however, give credit to the Trojans for pulling in elite players like Caleb Williams, Addison, and Travis Dye this offseason. He then made it clear that he's not worried about the offense.
"Riley has work to do to improve the line, but USC has four starters back - including standout guard Andrew Vorhees - off a unit that allowed 18 sacks last fall," said Lassan. "Scoring points shouldn't be a problem for the Trojans."
Most USC fans would agree with that, and most would also agree with his take on the Trojan defense:
"A run at the Pac-12 title is likely to hinge on how fast this defense develops. USC surrendered 34.2 points a game and 6.6 yards per play in Pac-12 games and ranked 11th in the conference in pass efficiency defense. This unit gave up too many big plays, struggled to generate pressure and forced only 19 takeaways."- Steven Lassan, Athlon Sports
USC's defense is likely to be easily worse than Utah's, which explains Lassan ranking USC below them. Utah's returning enough and has a strong enough culture on the defensive side of the ball to where it's expected that excellent Head Coach Kyle Whittingham will churn out another good defense in 2022.
Lassan did make it clear that he noticed USC's improvement on every level of the defense in the transfer portal this offseason. After all, Riley hit home runs in adding four-star transfer LB Eric Gentry and four-star transfer DB Latrell McCutchin in the portal.
USC truly does remain a wild card. Could they finish as the No. 9 team in the nation? Yes. Could they also finish in the early 20's? Yes, once again. It's all going to come down to how the defense performs, and how quickly the new culture can set in.