College Football preseason Top 25: #3 USC

Al Dannity | Updated Aug 22, 2012

Southern California has loaded its roster before recruiting sanctions take effect and they look poised to challenge for the BCS National Championship in 2012. Al Dannity provides his preview of his prospective Pac-12 champions in waiting.

The schedule The Trojans kick off the season with back-to-back non-conference against Hawaii at home and a neutral site game with Syracuse. Business picks up as soon as Pac-12 action gets under way with a trip to Stanford. Cal pay a visit next followed by trips to Utah and Washington. A home date with Colorado and a trip to Arizona should allow pause for breath before the Trojans play their biggest home game of the season against Oregon. The homecoming game against Arizona State comes a week later followed by a trip to the Rose Bowl to take on UCLA. The season finishes at home against Notre Dame.

The players The USC roster is loaded but everything hinges on Matt Barkley. When the quarterback elected to come back to the Trojans rather than declare for the draft, he turned USC from a team outside the Top 10 into legitimate national title contenders. Barkley is one of 9 returning starters, including elite receivers Robert Woods and Marqise Lee. The addition of running back Silas Redd from Penn State means the Trojans should have a much more productive ground game in 2012. On defense, USC have 7 starters back including all of their starting secondary. Talent is not an issue with the defensive backs, execution is another story. Much like the Alabama team of 2010, there’s a lot of room for improvement for a talented bunch. The one concern looking at this roster is depth, there simply isn’t any. Whenever the Trojans lose a man, they will need more production from the current starters. That’s a tough ask over 12 games.

The outlook Despite the potential train wreck injuries might cause, there’s simply no ignoring the talent of these starters. Barkley’s Heisman hopes could be derailed by an increased focus on the running game but he didn’t come back to USC to strike a pose. Barkley wants to play in the post-season and he wants to win there. If USC end the SEC’s six year reign atop the BCS, Barkley will stroll to the top of the NFL Draft. The talent is there to do so and they certainly look capable of running the table. Getting Oregon at home is a big boost but that road game at Stanford won’t be easy. They may not crush all before them but I like USC to be perfect at the end of the regular season. If they do that then the Trojans will play the Pac-12 title game at home and from there the path to the BCS National Championship Game is clear.

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