USC has been placed atop the preseason rankings in the AP Top 25. Now, it pains me to say this as a southern California resident who has been annoyed with the SEC bias in college football for quite some time: One of these two SEC powerhouses will leap frog the Trojans before the season’s end.
The Tide will hit the gates at a full sprint by opening the season against No. 8 Michigan, and they’ll keep that momentum going right on through.
In addition, Alabama has four starters returning along the offensive line to protect junior quarterback A.J. McCarron, who has the skill, talent and weapons to become the first quarterback in Alabama football history to pass for more than 3,000 yards in a season.
And then there’s the defense. It lost quite a few starters, especially in the secondary where it will miss first-round NFL draft pick Mark Barron.
But the return of Dee Milliner, who started most of 2010 at cornerback as a true freshman, should help to shore things up in the secondary and while it may not be the No. 1 unit in the nation like it was last year, it will still be a force to be reckoned with.
As with Alabama, this squad is all about the defense. It ranked No. 2 in the nation last year, but it had some massive losses. Stud corner Morris Claiborne and tackle Michael Brockers are gone and they will have to go without the ubiquitous Honey Badger wreaking havoc from the secondary this time around.
They’ll be fine. As Pete Fiutak pointed out on cfn.scout.com: “…defensive coordinator John Chavis is locked up with a whopper of a contract to keep him around.”
And he has plenty of tools at his disposal. The Tigers still have a beast of a defensive line led by 6'4", 245-pound human cyclone Sam Montgomery. On the other side is one of the best names in college football history: Barkevious Mingo. The 6'5", 237-pound junior defensive end has the game to back it up.
Safety Eric Reid will return to mitigate the holes left in the secondary, but the seven monsters in front of him will make his job a lot easier.
USC is an extremely talented team. The Trojans have depth at almost every position, and quarterback Matt Barkley is the runaway favorite to win the Heisman this year.
But both Alabama and LSU are more disciplined, battle tested and boast superior defenses. That’s why either the Tide or the Tigers, and not the Trojans, will end this season as the No. 1 college football team in the country.