USC Football: 5 Things Standing in the Trojans' Way of a National Championship
You don't have to be a college football expert to know that USC is poised for a run at the BCS National Championship in 2012. Just a few months removed from a two-year bowl ban, the Trojans will enter the fall with a chip on their shoulder, determined to make it to Miami and bring home the crystal ball at all costs.
However, as is the case with every national title contender, there are roadblocks along the way. Let's take a look at the five things standing in USC's way of hoisting the BCS National Championship Trophy come next January.
Depth Issues at Running Back
USC is desperately thin at the tailback position with just three scholarship players slated to suit up in the fall. The coaches tried to resolve this issue by converting linebacker Tre Madden to running back, only to see him suffer a season-ending knee injury midway through spring practice.
The rest of USC's tailbacks aren't considered iron men themselves. Backup D.J. Morgan has a history of injuries, as does third-stringer Buck Allen, who was limited throughout the spring with a hamstring injury.
Of course, the Trojans' lack of depth could be aided by incoming freshman Nelson Agholor. Agholor is listed as a 5-star wide receiver prospect, but USC's star recruit has experience playing in the backfield as well.
The rest of Lane Kiffin's offense is loaded with All-America candidates Robert Woods and Marqise Lee anchoring the wide receiver position and Heisman Trophy favorite Matt Barkley calling the shots at quarterback.
But, if USC cannot complement its dynamic aerial attack with a solid ground game, some of Troy's better opponents will be able to take advantage.
USC will likely enter the 2012 season as a top 3 team in the country in most polls. Most of the players on the Trojans current roster have never dealt with the sky-high expectations that come with such a lofty ranking.
Not to mention, Lane Kiffin is also inexperienced when it comes to coaching a team with this much national publicity and spotlight so early in the season.
While the team made a point of staying focused during spring ball, in the fall it will be a whole new ballgame with constant media attention on the program.
USC is led by veterans such as Matt Barkley and T.J. McDonald who will likely keep their team zoned in on the ultimate prize, but the worry of wilting under increased pressure will loom throughout 2012.
The Trojans deserve media attention more than any team after suffering through a miserable two-year bowl ban, but with increased attention comes increased exposure. USC fans better hope their team stays focused throughout the entirety of the season.
Unexpected Upset Bug
How can any Trojan fan forget 2008 when Oregon State tailback Jacquizz Rodgers ran all over an overmatched USC defense for 186 yards and two touchdowns en route to a 27-21 Beaver upset of top-ranked Troy.
Over the years, USC has been susceptible to the upset bug. Whether you point to the aforementioned Thursday night debacle in Corvallis in 2008 or the Trojans 16-13 loss at the hands of Washington in 2009, it's no secret that the Trojans have squandered away national championship opportunities with subpar efforts against inferior teams.
USC should be favored in nearly every game it plays in 2012, but that doesn't mean that the Trojans are immune to the upset.
Three games in particular during the first half of the season that USC should be wary of are an early matchup with Stanford on the Farm (Sept. 15), a Thursday night showdown with Utah in Salt Lake City (Oct. 4) and a trip to Seattle a week later to meet Washington (Oct. 13).
Chip Kelly's squad undoubtedly presents the biggest roadblock(s) on USC's road to Miami for the BCS National Championship Game. Not only are the Trojans and Ducks set to do battle on Nov. 3 in Los Angeles, but a rematch just a few weeks later in the Pac-12 Championship Game is also very possible.
Sure, Oregon has some reloading to do after star tailback LaMichael James and reliable quarterback Darron Thomas bolted for the NFL. But the cabinet is still relatively full in Eugene with athletes likes De'Anthony Thomas and Kenjon Barner waiting in the wings.
The Ducks may have lost a step or two from the team that won the Rose Bowl a year ago, but by November, Kelly will have a new quarterback broken in and his team will be ready to avenge last year's loss to USC.
The Nov. 3 matchup should be one for the ages, but even if the Trojans are able to escape with a victory, they will likely end up seeing Oregon again.
Not only will USC have to beat Oregon once, it will have to beat them twice in just a matter of weeks in order to keep its national championship hopes alive.
Whether the rest of the country enjoys hearing it, the Southeastern Conference has had a stranglehold on the college football world for quite some time.
You'd have to go back seven years to the 2005 season to find the last time that a non-SEC team (Texas) won the BCS National Championship. Ironically, that was also the last time USC played for the crystal ball, but lost in a heart-breaking 41-38 Rose Bowl Game against the Longhorns.
Despite losing key pieces on offense and defense, defending BCS National Champion Alabama appears to be back and better than ever in 2012 as does runner-up LSU. Both of these squads will be preseason favorites to make it back to the BCS National Championship Game in Miami, which is located nicely just outside of SEC territory.
USC surely isn't buying into the recent SEC dominance heading into 2012, but it's likely that if the Trojans make it as far as the BCS National Championship Game, they will meet a team from the Southeastern Conference.
History is certainly on the SEC's side, and USC will have its hands full while preparing to take on the nation's best.