USC football has received plenty of hype this offseason after their Lincoln Riley coaching hire and strong roster construction. They've also received plenty of urges to pump the brakes on their 2022 success, and some even flat-out praying on their downfall.
The Pac-12 media was polled this offseason on their preseason picks, and the results were revealed on Thursday. They do have USC receiving the second-most first-place votes (five) in the conference, but they have them all the way down at third in the conference. Both Utah (No. 1) AND Oregon (No. 2) are ahead of them.
While Utah should be ahead of them--due to them winning the Pac-12 Championship last season and returning enough to be the favorites for it again in 2022--Oregon being ahead of USC is probably not the best prediction.
Oregon finished the season by dropping three of their last four games. One was a 31-point loss, another was a 28-point loss, and another was a 15-point loss. Only one of those losses was to a top 15 team. Interestingly, that one team was the team USC's new QB Caleb Williams, as well as new WR Mario Williams played for.
Not to mention, that was Oklahoma; the program new USC Football Head Coach Lincoln Riley came from.
Lincoln Riley already left Oklahoma for the USC football program for that game, but the team was of course still running his system. College football has already seen how Oregon stacks up compared to what will be happening at USC with Riley and Caleb running the show, and it's not pretty.
Not to mention, Oregon just had a coaching change of their own, and is bringing in a coach who has never been a head coach before. In fact, he's only been a defensive coordinator for three years in his career.
That's not to say that Dan Lanning can't be a good coach--but simply to point out how there could very well be plenty of growing pains to go along with his arrival. So, while there will likely be growing pains for Riley at SC, it's a lot easier to trust a four-time Power 5 conference champion to handle them better than a first-time head coach.
It's also not the best look for Oregon to go after ex-USC DC Justin Wilcox before Lanning, and see Wilcox turn them down. Wilcox has been a very disappointing head coach in college football, going 26-28 in his five years of head coaching so far. Wilcox not even wanting to go to Oregon is a tough look.
Especially because he chose to stay at CAL over going to Oregon. That's not even to mention that Wilcox played at Oregon. He still wanted nothing to do with the program.
For Lanning to be a second option behind Wilcox isn't the best start. While saying Lanning can't be successful is FAR too early a conclusion to jump to--he's more difficult to trust than a 55-10 Riley.
The program is in great hands, and has an offense that's going to be incredibly hard to beat if anyone dares to get in a shootout with SC. While this team likely won't be back in 2022, they certainly should be picked to be in the Pac-12 Championship Game.
If divisions were still in play for making the Pac-12 Title Game, this would make sense. That's not the case, however, and therefore the two best teams should be at the top.