The transformation from sanctioned team to best in the nation looks like a distinct possibility as the USC Trojans embark on their mission toward the BCS National Championship.
Behind the mastermind of head coach Lane Kiffin, the Trojans finished off the final half of the 2011 season playing at a level that could have been labeled as one of the best in the nation, finishing No. 6 in the AP poll. Behind the arm of Heisman hopeful quarterback Matt Barkley, it appears the Men of Troy are ready to start exactly where they left off.
The job they have done, though, must be commended.
They've gone from beaten to possible preseason No. 1 going into the 2012 season. They have taken limited scholarships and turned them into a top 10 recruiting class. They are also taking in just 75 scholarship players—rather than the normal 85—into the season, and the feeling is, the numbers won't matter.
For Coach Kiffin and the boys, the realm of possibility is endless. USC has the talent to not only win the national championship, but go undefeated and win multiple individual player awards in the process.
Not only is Barkley returning for his senior season, the Trojans return safety T.J. McDonald on the defense, and all of Barkley's weapons on offense.
This is the defining season for USC. Coming off of the sanctions in which they continued to play like the championship was at stake. Playing like every game could be their last.
Now, they are looking ahead in what could possibly be the best season that the Cardinal and Gold have seen in quite awhile. Behind Barkley, Robert Woods, Marqise Lee and an offensive line that gave up just eight sacks on the season (granted, now without the departed Matt Kalil), greatness is just around the corner.
Not only is the stage set for this year, the Trojans are already putting together yet another top recruiting class that won't settle until February 2013. Commits Max Browne, Chris Hawkins, Kenny Bigelow and Kylie Fitts seem set in their commitments, and are ready to play the role of recruiters to bring in other top talent.
While the season is still quite some time away, USC fans and players are preparing at an intense level to complete their run through sanctions and toward greatness.
As the Trojans' saying goes, "Prep Not Hype."