Athlon Sports gives USC football favorable Pac-12 power ranking ahead of spring ball

Mar 1, 2022; Los Angeles, California, USA; Lincoln Riley, USC Football
Mar 1, 2022; Los Angeles, California, USA; Lincoln Riley, USC Football / Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports

Athlon Sports recently ran a 'Pac-12 Football: Spring 2022 Power Rankings' piece, and it gave the Trojans a very favorable ranking that USC football fans will be satisfied with. They gave SC the second spot in the conference. For a team embarking on a new era with a new head coach, I'll take it.

Besides, it's not like the one team ahead of us in Utah is full of a bunch of scrubs. They're returning their good starting QB in Cam Rising and are projected by many (including me) to have a real good defense again. The writer of the article, Steven Lassan, also said that he expects the Utes to have one of the best defenses in the conference.

As for SC, here's what he had to say when overviewing the power ranking:

"USC is arguably the most intriguing team in the conference. The Trojans are poised to improve under new coach Lincoln Riley, and the transfer portal additions of quarterback Caleb Williams and a handful of players only bolster their chances of contending for the Pac-12 crown"

Steven Lassan, Athlon Sports

Lassan could not be more right about the USC football program.

USC football is adding a top five coach in the country, a top three quarterback in the country, and a slew of big-time transfer portal additions that will make SC better. They're developing a completely different, and much stronger core than what they've been working with since the days of the Sam Darnold era ended, and the team began routinely underachieving.

The most prominent USC transfers outside of the most anticipated transfer in college football history (Williams) are dynamic four-star former Colorado Wide Receiver Brenden Rice, four-star former Caleb Williams pass-catcher at Oklahoma Mario Williams, promising four-star former Oklahoma cornerback, and elite four-star former Oregon RB1 Travis Dye. (All transfer star ratings are from 247Sports.)

So, why is USC not the No. 1 team in these power rankings? It's pretty simple, and Lassan explains it well. The defense contains MANY question marks right now:

"Major help is needed here after USC allowed 6.6 yards per play and 34.2 points a game in Pac-12 games last season. Just three starters return for new coordinator Alex Grinch and question marks remain about depth along the defensive line and at linebacker."

Steven Lassan, Athlon Sports

Next. Top 5 2023 in-state recruits for USC to go after. dark

Unfortunately, this defense truly does come with a lot of uncertainty and downside. They do have some really talented pieces, but even those don't have a lot of playing experience right now. Even some that do haven't looked too sharp just yet. This season will likely come down to how many shootouts SC can win. And while they have an offense that returns four starting lineman and can absolutely hang with any other offense that they'll play in 2022, it's tough to figure out what should be expected of this defense right now.