USC Football: Could the Trojans be Better Than Many Think in 2013?

Rick McMahanSenior Writer IJune 9, 2013

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 24:  Marqise Lee #9 of the USC Trojans keeps his balance after a catch as Bennett Jackson #2 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish defends during a 22-13 Notrre Dame win at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on November 24, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

Ever since the debacle that was 2012 ended for USC's football team, many have predicted a gloomy future for the Trojans in 2013. Last season's 7-6 record, coupled with the departure of four-year starting quarterback Matt Barkley and a new defensive scheme, gave few—including myself—reasons to assume that brighter days were on the horizon.

In fact, I recently published an article in which I offered nine wins as the benchmark for realistic expectations for the upcoming year. And while a 9-4 record might be cause for celebration at some college campuses, that is not the case for a fabled program such as USC.

It was with those tempered expectations that I cautioned Trojans fans when it came to their hopes for their team in 2013. But is it possible that those diminished expectations are just the product of an overabundance of pessimism?

This week, a couple of positive signs emerged that may indicate that USC could surprise some people this year. The first was college football expert Phil Steele's release of his top-40 prediction for the 2013 season.

Steele, one of college football's top prognosticators, has been a fairly reliable barometer for how the season will unfold, and he has been doing it well for many years. Now, courtesy of Scott Wolf of the Los Angeles Daily News, we find out that Mr. Steele has the Trojans finishing No. 6 in the country.

That's right, No. 6. In fact, the Trojans are one of his "surprise teams."

While that is all well and good, though, there is other evidence that USC may be much better than originally thought. This time, it comes from people whose livelihood depends on knowing these things.

The Golden Nugget Casino in Las Vegas released its early betting line, and it has the Trojans as favorites in all but two of the team's games. Of those two, one (Oregon State) finds USC a one-point underdog, while the other (Notre Dame) has the Trojans a five-point underdog.

Also included is one "pick' em" game (Arizona State), but it is certainly fair to assume USC has a solid chance to win that game.

Since the Trojans are playing a 13-game schedule in 2013, by my reckoning, that makes them 11-2, according to the Golden Nugget. This makes Phil Steele's No. 6 prediction quite viable, in my estimation.

Of course, this type of banter in June is just idle speculation and a way for bored college football fans to pass the time. Still, it may be an indication of brighter days ahead for the men of Troy—and man, won't that be welcome for a fanbase that is just dying to wash the bad taste of last year out of its mouth.

So, will USC be better than many think in 2013? Time will tell, but Trojan fans surely hope that Phil Steele is on to something.