Preseason College Football Rankings 2012: USC and Teams Who Are Vastly Overhyped

Matt Fitzgerald@@MattFitz_geraldCorrespondent IIIAugust 28, 2012

The preseason college football rankings are as much guesswork and politics as they are a true indicator of how teams will stack up at season's end.

For the top-ranked USC Trojans and others, the polls are setting lofty expectations sure not to be reached in 2012.

Here is a breakdown of the preseason No. 1 in college football, as well as two other top-10 teams who are vastly overhyped.


University of Southern California Trojans, AP Rank No. 1 (25 first-place votes):

Matt Barkley returns to school, along with most of last year's starters, in hopes of making it to the national championship.

While the Trojans are ranked No. 3 in the USA Today poll, the notion that they are even in the same class with Alabama, LSU or Oklahoma is ridiculous.

Defensive end and second-team All-American Nick Perry will be missed wreaking havoc as a pass-rushing force, as he now plays for the Green Bay Packers.

Other than free safety and team captain T.J. McDonald, the Trojans have some issues on the defensive side of the ball.

On offense, top-five pick Matt Kalil is no longer the left tackle, and losing that caliber of a player at such a crucial position could change the complexion of USC's offense.

As Bleacher Report's own Kristen Rogers indicates, the starting job will be up for grabs between Aundrey Walker and true freshman Max Tuerk, who will wear Kalil's No. 75.

Bold move, froshy.

Mostly, the team is inexperienced across the board, and although the schedule is favorable, the nucleus of the team is talented but still raw.

Senior defensive end Wes Horton is the only player in the Trojans' front seven who isn't a sophomore or younger, although Hayes Pullard and Deon Bailey both look to be promising outside linebackers.

Still, when facing even moderately explosive offenses last season, the Trojans struggled, and are returning many of the same players.

Aside from McDonald in the secondary, the strong safety spot is up for grabs, and projected starting cornerback Anthony Brown is coming off ankle surgery.

At the other corner position, junior Nickell Robey has played extremely well in his first two season, but will tend to get out-muscled by receivers since he is just 5'8", 165 pounds.

Games early in the season at Stanford, at Utah and at Washington pose a serious threat to USC, as well as a home tussle with preseason No. 5 Oregon in November.

Then, you never know what can happen against Notre Dame.

Barkley, his wide receiver duo of Robert Woods and Marqise Lee, and new acquisition Silas Redd at running back lead an explosive offense, but they'll have to live up to the hype.


Florida State Seminoles, AP Rank No. 7

After winding up as the 23rd-ranked team in the nation last season, Jimbo Fisher's squad has suddenly vaulted into the top 10.

According to, FSU has the sixth-ranked recruiting class for 2012. That doesn't seem like enough to get this team over the hump this year, though.

Quarterback EJ Manuel is among the most talented signal-callers in college football. Standing at 6'5" and weighing 240 pounds with great athleticism and a rocket arm, there's no telling what he could do.

Also encouraging from last season is that Manuel completed just over 65 percent of his passes.

That said, the success of this team goes as Manuel does. In the only game in which he faced a top team, Manuel went 13-of-19 for 85 yards and two interceptions against Oklahoma.


Manuel left that game with an injury in the third quarter, but it was not pretty before then.

Florida State may have a talented defense, but they also gave up 35 points to Wake Forest in a 35-30 loss last season.

They will get their shot at revenge at home in Bobby Bowden Field, but will host Clemson's explosive offense led by Tajh Boyd the very next week.

A road game against what should be an improved North Carolina State team and a late-season trip to Blacksburg to take on Virginia Tech will also be stiff tests.

If the Seminoles somehow make it past all four of those games, then it would be appropriate to call them a top-tier team. Not right now.


University of Michigan Wolverines, AP Rank No. 8 (one first-place vote):

Sure, the Denard Robinson Show will be in full effect as the shifty senior quarterback plays his final games in the Big House.

Beyond Robinson, though, this team doesn't have a whole lot to lean on. The defense gave up just 17.4 points per game last season, but the schedule was incredibly generous.

The only truly formidable defenses Robinson faced last season were from Michigan State and Virginia Tech.

In those games, Robinson was a combined 18-of-45 passing for 240 yards with three touchdowns and two picks. He also managed 31 carries for just 55 yards and one touchdown.

The Wolverines get thrown to the wolves in the season opener against Alabama, which seems like a flat-out mismatch.

Away games at Nebraska and Notre Dame, as well as the always-heated annual tilts with the Spartans and the Ohio State Buckeyes, will be very tough to handle, especially with the OSU matchup taking place in the 'Shoe against new coach Urban Meyer.

If Roy Roundtree can't adequately fill in for Junior Hemingway as the No. 1 receiver, Michigan could become extremely one-dimensional on offense.

Couple that with a largely unproven defense, and it makes the Wolverines an enigma at No. 8, and especially with a vote for the top spot.


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