USC Football: Why the Trojans Were Ranked No. 1 in the Associated Press Poll
Lane Kiffin's club came out as the No. 1 team in the land, according to the AP poll, which was recently released.
Now, of course, this doesn't mean a whole lot; the season hasn't even started, and USC will have to prove every week that it is worthy of this ranking. But it is still cool to have the respect of many writers across the country and to be considered the best overall team heading into the 2012 season.
However, there are a couple of other teams that could have received the No. 1 spot.
Here are a few reasons why USC was able to hurdle over every other team in the country and receive the top spot in the 2012 preseason AP poll.
They Can Kick
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I'm sure there was not one voter that picked USC because of its special teams, but placekicker Andre Heidari is a huge part of the team and deserves some credit for this squad’s success. We are talking about a kicker who made 15 of 17 field goals last season as a true freshman. He also made all 50 of his extra points and was 4-for-5 on field goals that were beyond 40 yards.
His 88.2 field-goal percentage was good for third in the country among kickers that made at least 10 field goals in 2011.
Heidari is probably the last name you are thinking about on this team, but we have seen many times how horrible special teams can destroy a season. It cost Alabama a chance to go undefeated last season and was the reason Stanford couldn't send Andrew Luck on his way with a BCS bowl victory.
The Trojans will not have to worry about a shaky field-goal kicker ruining their season.
Offense, Offense and Even More Offense
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I really don't think I can stress how much offensive firepower this team has. There are many teams in the country that are capable of scoring points, but USC has an offense that has several legitimate NFL-caliber players.
Matt Barkley will likely be the first quarterback taken off the board next season in the NFL draft.
He is coming off a season in which he completed 69 percent of his passes and threw for over 3,500 yards and 39 touchdowns. He also did a great job taking care of the football, limiting himself to only seven interceptions, which was the fewest in his career.
Wide receivers Robert Woods and Marqise Lee will be playing on Sundays soon enough, too.
Woods has a connection with Barkley that is probably the best in the country between quarterback and receiver. They hooked up 111 times last season, including four games in which Woods finished with double-digit receptions.
Lee is only a sophomore, but at 6'1", he has the sure hands, speed, leaping ability and size to be a first-round draft pick in a couple of years. He finished his freshman year with 73 receptions, 1,143 yards and 11 touchdowns.
And when Barkley is feeling a little tired, he will have the luxury of handing the ball off to two 1,000-yard rushers in Curtis McNeal and Silas Redd.
Again, many teams have great offenses, but nearly every skill-position player in this unit has the potential of being a first-round pick. How many other teams in the country can say something like that?
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The Pac-12 is not exactly the conference you want to look at when discussing great defense, but the Trojans can play ball on this side, as well.
The defensive line certainly has its fair share of questions, but that secondary has the potential to be scary good.
Safety T.J. McDonald returns for his senior season after he was an All-Pac-12 selection and an All-America last year. Jawanza Starling is also an experienced safety, as he will start for his third straight year, after finishing sixth on the team in tackles last season.
At corner, Nickell Robey will hold down one side, as he had a terrific season, finishing fourth on the team in tackles, intercepting two passes and breaking up nine. He is a fabulous cover corner, whom many believe has the talent to really improve his NFL draft stock this season.
The linebacker group will be an improved unit, as Kiffin decided to start three freshmen last year, which will only help this season.
Overall, we may give the offense much of the attention this season, but the defense should be able to hold its own as well in 2012.
Luck of the Draw
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While USC has all of the talent in the world and could very well make a trip to the national championship for the first time since 2005, there are many other talented teams out there.
The top three teams in the country are USC, LSU and Alabama. How do you decide which one is better? You simply put all three names into a hat and whichever one comes out is the No. 1 team.
Well, that may not be the process that the voters go through, but when trying to break down each of these teams, you are simply splitting hairs.
The only way to settle this argument is on the field, but as of right now, the USC Trojans are the top team in the AP poll.
It looks like their name was picked first as we head into the 2012 college football season.