USC football came in at No. 14 in the Preseason AP Top 25 Poll. It's a fair ranking for a team who will be much improved this year, but likely not a team who will return USC 'back' to national dominance again. As for their Pac-12 opponents, though, the AP got some things right and some things wrong. They have Utah at No. 7, which is fair, and Oregon at No. 11, which is high.
Utah should be No. 7. They finished 12th last year, and return enough production and personnel to where they should be able to kind of pick up where they left off and improve in 2022.
They won the Pac-12 last year, and are the favorites for this upcoming year. They have a proven, good head coach in Kyle Whittingham, and one of the best QBs (Cam Rising) and one of the best RBs (Tavion Thomas) in the conference.
Oregon, who lost one of the best backs in the conference (Travis Dye) and is going into the season with Bo Nix as the quarterback, shouldn't be ahead of a USC team that like Utah has one of the best QBs (THE best in Caleb Williams) and one of the best RBs (Dye) in the conference. Are those the only two factors? Of course not. But Oregon has other deficiencies too.
USC football has a significantly better head coach than Oregon.
USC football hired Lincoln Riley this offseason, who is coming off of his fifth straight season finishing in the top 10 of the AP poll. He's never had a season where he finished outside the top 10. He's won the Big 12 every year he's been a head coach except for one season. Oregon hired Dan Lanning, who has never been a head coach before. He's also only been a coordinator for three years.
While it's far too early to decide that Lanning can't be a good head coach, Oregon preferred Justin Wilcox, a bad head coach who is under .500 in his career. Wilcox turned them down. He's already a lackluster coach, so for the Ducks to have to settle for someone that they were even less interested in with Lanning is certainly not the best start to their new journey post-Mario Cristobal.
Does Oregon have tons of talent in some key areas of the roster? Absolutely. Do they still have Nix, who's barely a top nine Pac-12 QB running the show, however? Absolutely. They had a similarly-talented roster last season and finished at 22. What makes them catapult up 11 spots? They, like USC, are bound to face some growing pains with a new coach.
And that's a new coach that's significantly less proven than USC's new coach in Riley. Besides, Oregon ended the season on a massive collapse, losing three of their last four games. They lost them by 31 points, 28 points, and 15 points. Heck, that 15-point loss was to OU in the Alamo Bowl, who was still running Riley's system.
To see them three spots ahead of the Trojans, and 11 spots from where they finished last year with a similarly-talented roster and less-proven coach is interesting. While USC will likely not be back to glory after just one year, they will likely be a good team.
The AP voters seem to notice this, but have the Oregon aspect of their ranking incorrect. SC shouldn't be moved up from where they are at 14, but Oregon shouldn't be ahead of USC in the poll.