Even though USC received NCAA sanctions in June 2010 which were second to the SMU death penalty in severity, the Trojans have a legitimate shot at the 2012 BCS national championship.
Before you say this is crazy, consider the players the Trojans will have in 2012 and their motivation after being kept out of bowl games for two years by the NCAA.
The Trojans are going to have a very good team in 2011, but not a national championship team. USC could easily end up ranked in the top 20 even though most of the meaningless preseason polls don’t place them in the top 25.
But, some things have to happen to make the 2012 national championship a reality.
It would be nice if the NCAA grants the USC appeal, but this is doubtful because they won’t admit their mistakes. So, USC will probably not be able to go to a bowl game again this year.
However, the real impact is the loss of five additional scholarships for each of the next three years and the 75 scholarship limit.
Let’s assume that USC loses the appeal and doesn’t get those five additional scholarships.
That makes the 2012 recruiting class very critical because less scholarships will be available and there are a few positions that need some top players to fill holes. If USC can get the OL and DL players they need, then it will significantly enhance the national championship possibility.
USC had top-five recruiting classes in 2010 and 2011. Those players will make significant contributions to the 2011 team either in starting or back-up roles.
Almost half of the team are redshirt or true freshmen so this year’s team will have some experience issues. But that makes the 2012 team so much better because they will have the experience.
As indicated in Rick McMahan's article about 15 Young Trojans Who Could Become Legends, USC has extremely talented young players who will help make this a great team in 2012.
Here is the depth chart after spring practice. A lot could change after fall practice.
There are four great athletes who may leave early for the NFL. QB Matt Barkley, OT Matt Kalil, DE Nick Perry and Safety T.J. McDonald have been talked about by various media and some have appeared in mock drafts.
But, returning for their senior season will be a huge boost to the quality of the team, and probably better for them.
Of course, much can happen in 2011 to contribute to that decision.
There is the NFL lockout, but it should be resolved before a decision is made. The biggest factor will be the potential draft position, and that will be heavily influenced by 2011 performance.
None of these players has to go pro early to help their families except possibly Perry. So that means that they shouldn’t leave early unless they can go in the first round.
Barkley may not have the 2011 season that he would like due to the inexperience of the OL. Another great quarterback had this problem, and a good OL his senior season resulted in Carson Palmer winning the Heisman Trophy. The same could happen to Barkley and it is something he really wants.
Kalil is a great athlete, but seems to lack the drive to perform at the highest levels consistently. That could happen in 2011, but he may need another year to realize his potential, especially with the difficulties of an inexperienced line this year.
Perry has a goal to get 15 sacks this year. If he stays healthy, that is possible, but he is likely to be double teamed if he gets on that track. USC should have a good DL this year, so it is possible that he could leave early. However, he may not be rated a first rounder due to health issues the past two years, so he would be smart to return.
McDonald is going to do really well this year, and probably become an All-American. His father, Tim, certainly knows the NFL and the benefits of the USC football experience. His advice may be to get that last year of experience and graduate. By the way, congratulations to Tim for graduating on May 13th, 25 years after he was an All-American for the Trojans, and he gave the commencement speech to graduating student-athletes.
The 2012 team will have at least 18 (including two kickers) starters return with most of the two-deep. There are only 13 seniors.
The only possible starters who finish their eligibility are TE Rhett Ellison, WR Brandon Carswell, RB Marc Tyler, OT Martin Coleman, NT Christian Tupou and LB Chris Galippo. Of course, USC has not finalized starters at many positions including some of these, and underclassmen will get a lot of playing experience even if these players start.
There are three outstanding redshirt freshmen TEs to replace Ellison. They will get experience in 2011.
USC is so deep at WR that Carswell will be easily replaced.
The Trojans also have a stable of very good RBs so Tyler won’t be missed.
USC has two excellent freshmen OL, Cyrus Hobbi and Aundrey Walker, who will get a lot of playing time and might start some games. But it is critical that the Trojans sign at least four excellent OL in the 2012 recruiting class and that one of them is good enough to start in 2012.
Nose tackle Tupou will be more difficult to replace, but the Trojans have freshmen J.R. Tavai and Antwaun Woods, and should get at least one more great tackle in the 2012 recruiting class. There are several other good replacements also depending upon who leaves after the 2011 season.
LB Galippo has been a starter most of his four years. Redshirt freshmen Dion Bailey and Hayes Pullard will play a lot this year. Incoming freshman Lamar Dawson will also see plenty of action. Freshmen Anthony Sarao and Tre Madden also have excellent potential. Starters Devon Kennard and Marquis Simmons will return.
So the only position that there might be any drop-off in 2012 is nose tackle.
In every other position there is much more upside, so USC will be a much more experienced team and deep in talent.
This will also be the third year with the new coaching staff. Both the coaching staff and players will understand each other and the schemes very well.
Key members of this coaching staff have won national championships, so they know what it takes.
The NCAA has prevented the Trojans from playing in a bowl game for two years, and allowed juniors and seniors to transfer without sitting out a year. This will be a very motivated 2012 team, especially the senior leaders who didn’t leave early.
Many people are starting to understand how badly the NCAA mishandled the USC investigation and sanctions. There is no question that they had an agenda and manipulated the enforcement process to accomplish it.
The NCAA hates the BCS national championship because they don’t participate and lost their lawsuit over control.
But can you imagine how they will feel if USC wins the 2012 BCS national championship?
Wonder how President Emmert, who never read the USC case, but thinks they got it right, likes those apples and oranges (or Orange Bowl location in Miami in this case — think hypocrite COI chair Paul Dee who committed far more violations than USC as AD at Miami, but had no problems rationalizing greater sanctions).