This isn’t supposed to be happening. When Alabama had a two year bowl ban in ’02 and ’03, they went 4-9 in the second year of the ban and 6-6 the year following.  A one-year ban in the 90s knocked a great Miami team down to 5-7. Auburn’s probation in the mid 90s dropped an undefeated team to a string of 8-4 seasons in the wake of the scandal.

In 2009, the Trojans finished 9-4 and went to the Emerald Bowl. Then the most successful coach in the modern era of college football resigned from the program, and the NCAA struck with laughably disproportionate sanctions.

USC was not supposed to “bottom out” at 8-4 and then close their bowl ban years with a 10-2 team that would have had a great shot at a Rose Bowl, only to emerge from the ban with the best team in college football.

But here we are.


It might be easier to point out the few non-stars on USC’s team, but even doing that would be splitting hairs. To start, USC has the most talent at the offensive skill positions of any team in the country.

Matt Barkley is a prohibitive favorite to break Carson Palmer’s USC/Pac-12 total offense records and win the Heisman Trophy. Robert Woods is a dark horse Heisman candidate and Marqise Lee will likely be the breakout star of the season at wide receiver.

Senior Center Khaled Holmes has been snapping the ball to Matt Barkley since High School and is a pre-season All-American.

And that’s just the offense.

Senior TJ McDonald is a pre-season 1st Team All-American Free Safety and Jr. Nickell Robey is challenging Terrell Thomas for the honor of best cover-corner of USC’s modern era.

At linebacker, Hayes Pullard and Dion Bailey each notched 81 tackles last season as FRESHMEN, which puts them in a tie for 5th among returning defenders in the Pac.


The Trojans return 15 starters including nearly all their stars, but a little depth doesn’t hurt, especially at tailback. Lane Kiffin snatched 1,200 yard rusher Silas Redd from Penn State this summer, immediately giving the Trojans a viable backup for Curtis McNeal, and totally reversing the Trojan Family’s views on poaching players from schools on probation.

It wasn’t all good news in USC’s summer camp however, as star defensive end Devon Kennard tore a pectoral muscle and will now be lost for the season. Kennard will be sorely missed and the Trojans do not have an experienced end to replace him.

Instead, they will turn to Sophomore JR Tavai, who was a 2nd string tackle last season, to start at end in Kennard’s place. The Trojans also replace captain DT Christian Tupou with redshirt Freshman Antwuan Woods, making for three underclassmen starters in their defensive front four.


The Trojans open tomorrow with Hawai’I and will play Syracuse in Met Life Stadium next week before their first big test @ Stanford on 9/15. USC gets only 4 Pac-12 Home games this season, but one of them is Oregon. Also, Notre Dame must come to the Coliseum this year and @UCLA might as well be a home game.


When the NCAA found Reggie Bush to be ineligible beginning December of 2004, USC complied and took the 2004 BCS Championship trophy out of its case in Heritage Hall.

The empty case, however, did not go anywhere.

It’s still sitting in the Lobby next to some large windows by the front door for all the world to see.

The message is clear. Matt Barkley says he stayed at USC this season to complete unfinished business, and though he won’t say it publicly, the unspoken understanding is, his unfinished task is nothing short of replacing that trophy.

The journey to college football’s ultimate prize is unpredictable and riddled with so many political factors beyond any one team’s control, that it’s generally foolish for any team to set a pre-season goal beyond winning its own conference.

But the fact is, USC is the pre-season #1. They are a big name and a known quantity. They don’t need to worry about convincing voters or gaming the system. They just need to win their games. I’ve never said this about any college football team in pre-season before, but the only worthy goal for this team is a National Championship. The only thing that should satisfy this team, is going to Miami and taking their trophy back.