Is USC the Worst Preseason No. 1 Team Ever?

Lisa Horne@LisaHornePac-12 and Big 12 Lead WriterNovember 6, 2012

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 20:  USC Trojans head coach Lane Kiffin looks on against the Colorado Buffaloes at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on October 20, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

The Wall Street Journal came out with an article on November 4 asking if USC was the worst preseason No. 1 team ever in college football. It called USC "college football's biggest paper tiger in nearly 50 years."

Biting words from a well-respected newspaper. The story went on to say that "no preseason No. 1 has finished outside the top 20 since 1964, according to collegepollarchive.com."

We can peruse history and argue about which teams were the worst after being crowned the best team in the preseason, but let's discuss the real issue here: Why are teams being called overrated preseason No. 1 teams when they fail to live up to the so-called experts' guesses?

Voters are blindly guessing at which team they think is best, and once that team doesn't perform up to their expectations, it's overrated. It's a paper tiger.

Here's a thought: Maybe the voters should be pointing fingers at themselves for being just plain wrong. The team wasn't bad; their analysis and expectations of it were. 

You can't blindly select one seed out of a bag of mixed seeds, plant it and expect that seedling to grow into an American Beauty rose. It may turn out to be a chrysanthemum.  

Who ranked USC No. 1 in the first place? Who decided it was going to be a rose before its roots had taken hold?

USC didn't. That No. 1 title was bestowed on the team by the media based on last season's 10-2 record. Meanwhile, Alabama—the 2011 BCS champion—finished No. 1 last year but was ranked No. 2 in this year's preseason AP poll.

Is Alabama a surprise this year? Voters obviously thought too much talent was lost on the Crimson Tide's defense, and thus Alabama shouldn't be ranked No. 1 in the preseason, although it did receive 17 first-place votes. So far, Alabama looks like a No. 1 team, doesn't it?

Shouldn't voters be chastised for undervaluing a team rather than blasting a team they overvalued? How could they ignore the Nick Saban factor?

Preseason polls serve no purpose other than to ignite and energize some fanbases. The negative aspect to this is that many teams face an uphill battle to climb into the Top 10 despite carrying an undefeated record. Moreover, a team with a No. 1 preseason ranking is burdened with lofty expectations that rarely come to fruition.

Every year, we go through this futile process of ranking teams before they've even played. It's akin to giving birth to a child and then announcing to family and friends at that child's first birthday, "He's so smart, he will be a doctor when he grows up." The child ends up becoming an artist, and the parents call him a failure.

Did the child really fail? Weren't the parents' expectations just wishful thinking based on a few of their observations during his way-too-early childhood?

USC, nor its predecessors that failed to live up to a No. 1 preseason ranking, isn't the worst. But perhaps the sportswriters who continually get it wrong are.

Florida State was the first No. 1 preseason team to go wire-to-wire and finish No. 1, according to ESPN's Mark Schlabach. That was in 1999. Since then, only one team has matched that feat: the 2004 USC Trojans, who later vacated that BCS championship.

Getting it right twice in 12 years—but officially only once—means the voters aren't experts.

And if they're not experts, then they shouldn't be throwing the very proof of their lack of expertise under the bus.

Preseason polls have always been taken with a grain of salt, but now is probably the time to ban them. Even the controversial BCS doesn't come out with a poll until after seven weeks of football have been played.

In the meantime, voters should just admit they don't know anything instead of labeling 18- to 20-year-olds the "worst." Say it.

We aren't experts. We were wrong. We're sorry.