Way-too-early polls are coming out for the 2022 college football season, and USC football is receiving quite a bit of hype for their first year under elite Head Coach Lincoln Riley.
You have to look very hard to find a too-early poll without USC in it, and some of them have SC ranking extremely high. While I personally only believe that SC should be in the 21-25 range, some have them going way higher. Let's first take a look at this poll from FOX Sports' RJ Young, who has the Trojans as his 25th team:
This is fair, as while SC is bringing in a top four coach in college football who has never finished worse than 10th in a season, the team is still coming off of a 4-8 year, and Riley hasn't entered a situation while dealing with this type of adversity before. Here's where SC stands in ESPN's too-early poll, which I also feel is about right:
The thing is though, some publications are expecting SC to see exponential growth next year. Check out this ranking from On3, who have the Trojans in the top FIVE:
Some of you may be excited about this. Some of you may roll your eyes and remember the other times SC has been hyped up before the season, just to end up in that 'good but not great' category, or even bad like this year. I'm not going to make you pick a side either way, but I can tell you right now that the overall amount of hype coming at USC is justifiable.
The hype around the USC football program for 2022 is here and it's real.
The reason that some publications are ranking USC football much higher than where I said they belong is due to projection. They are PROJECTING great portal news for Riley and the Trojans.
Don't believe me? I'll just drop exactly what On3 said about their top five ranking of the Trojans:
"Yes, we’re serious," wrote the staff at On3. "The Trojans have had two good quarterbacks transfer out since the arrival of Lincoln Riley. But isn’t Riley’s former quarterback in the transfer portal? Hmmm. The defensive line is a question, for sure."
People hyping up the SC program are doing so due to the common projection that Caleb Williams will be heading to our team. If this happens, it will likely spark a commitment from his OU teammate and promising receiver Mario Williams, and perhaps even more. Jalil Farooq and Marvin Mims have even been speculated to potentially want to follow Caleb.
If Caleb transfers here, a slew of transfers may follow. In that case, this offense could be explosive. Caleb averaged nine yards per pass attempt and 5.6 yards per carry in just his first year playing for Riley last year, and he didn't even get anywhere close to a full season due to Spencer Rattler starting the entire first half of the year.
He still tossed 21 touchdowns and scored six more on the ground, and threw just four picks. He was the leading Heisman favorite at one point despite not even starting until the second-half of the season. If he comes to SC and gets a chance to develop while a bit older, in the same system, and with what would then likely be at least one of his favorite targets from OU, the sky could be the limit for Caleb.
SC has a good line, as they were the highest-graded offensive line in football last year (PFF) and return all three starting interior lineman and just added a good left tackle via the transfer portal in Virginia's Bobby Haskins. Also, keep in mind that they just made a massive hiring of one of the best offensive line coaches in the nation, Josh Henson.
The narrative that SC has a bad O-Line is pretty uneducated, and Williams wouldn't have nearly as much trouble as some are claiming he'd have behind this line. If SC's offense plays to its potential while adding who is one of the top two quarterbacks entering college football next year, their ceiling could be way higher than you may think.
Sure, maybe you still can't fathom SC being all the way up to No. 5, but here's a ranking from Sports Illustrated's Pat Forde which is one that you may see as more reasonable:
Again, I still wouldn't rank SC this high, but I at least get it. While you may not want to trust our team just yet, there are a lot of teams around the country with plenty of uncertainty surrounding their squads as well due to a new era in college football with the transfer portal. Some teams on our schedule can relate, and after all just two teams on SC's 2022 schedule finished in the final AP poll this season.
Like I said, I have SC in that 21-25 range. That doesn't mean that I can't piece together why some are so bullish on our 2022 prospects, and even have us as a top five squad heading into next year.