USC football fans already know that ESPN's FPI system isn't necessarily the most intelligent judge of college football.
If anyone needed more closure on that, there is more ridiculousness from the service outside of their embarrassing win total prediction for SC (eight wins--just as many as Arizona State and less than UCLA). FPI has preseason rankings too, in addition to their win predictions. They ranked USC 37th in the entire country.
Yes, according to ESPN's FPI, a Lincoln-Riley coached team with a top two roster in their Power 5 conference is going to be the 37th-best team in the nation. Riley's worst season in his career was a top 10 season, but he's actually not even going to be in the top 35 according to the geniuses who put FPI rankings together.
USC was 4-8 last year, but that's not fully indicative of the type of team Riley is inheriting. The team would have been significantly better than 4-8 last year if they rolled with Clay Helton instead of firing him after week 2. Helton was famous at SC for starting off seasons slow and then turning them around just enough to save his job.
The team chose to fire him so that they could make sure to avoid another one of those situations, and secure an elite head coach for the future, which they did. It was the correct decision, and while it did result in the team struggling to rally behind an unqualified interim head coach with not even coordinator experience yet, there was plenty more talent on the team than their record showed.
USC football has built on that talent since Riley was hired.
Since USC football brought Riley in to lead the program, he took their overall class ranking (both recruits + transfers combined) from outside the top 100 and into the top 10.
They most notably did this through bringing in the most anticipated transfer in college football history in five-star transfer QB and No. 1 portal player Caleb Williams, and also bringing in four more four-star transfers.
Those four-star transfers were one of Williams' favorite targets at OU in slot receiver Mario Williams, Oregon RB1 and elite back Travis Dye, dynamic all-around WR threat from Colorado Brenden Rice, and ultra-talented Oklahoma cornerback Latrell McCutchin.
There is no way that these additions, plus a top four or five head coach in the country, plus an offensive line that was the No. 1 rated line in the country (PFF) is going to be the 37th-best team in all of college football. In fact, this transfer class that SC pulled in is ranked as the No. 2 class in the entire nation.
Imagine ranking these Trojans behind Florida State, Nebraska, and Louisville. Well, that's hilariously where ESPN's FPI has ranked Riley's Trojans, and those are of course just three of the 37(!) teams that the service has somehow put over USC. Ironically, ESPN has decided to broadcast USC's spring game and USC's only. The network knows how good this SC team is set to be. This is just another reason why most college football writers view FPI as an obsolete metrics system.