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College Football Countdown: No. 1 USC

College FootballFootballCollege SportsUSC TrojansPac-12 ConferenceArizona State Sun Devils

The Orlando Sentinel has ranked all 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in the country. The Sentinel staff will take a closer look at a new team daily, counting backward from No. 120 to our projected No. 1 team. We will not be including the four teams the NCAA lists as still reclassifying to the Football Bowl Subdivision level.

Today at No. 1: USC

Coach: Lane Kiffin (18-7, third season; 25-13 overall)

2011 record: 10-2 (7-2 in Pac-12 Conference, 1st in South Division)

Look back: USC opened the 2011 campaign with three straight victories before suffering a tough road loss to Arizona State in week four. The team rebounded with three straight losses including avenging a loss to Notre Dame in 2010. In one of the most highly-anticipated games of the year for the Trojans, USC fell just short against Stanford, 56-48 in triple-overtime. The team rebounded with four straight wins including a 38-35 victory over Oregon on Nov. 19. USC would have captured the South Division and a spot in the Pac-12 title game but was forced to sit out thanks to being in the final year of a two-year bowl ban.

Offensive starters lost-returning: 2-9

Defensive starters lost-returning: 3-8

Key losses: OT Matt Kalil, NT Christian Tupou, DE Nick Perry, DT DaJohn Harris

Top returnees: QB Matt Barkley, WR Robert Woods, WR Marqise Lee, RB Curtis McNeal, DE Wes Horton

Strengths: The offense returns nine starters from a squad that finished third in scoring (35.8 ppg)and fourth in total offense (456.8 ypg) in the Pac-12 Conference last season. Matt Barkley’s decision to return for his senior season makes him early fodder for preseason Heisman Trophy talk especially considering his performance last season. Barkley threw for 3,528 yards and a league-record 39 touchdowns and was statistically one of the best quarterbacks in the country the last six weeks of last season. …. Curtis McNeal (1,005 yards/6 TDs) will be joined by Penn State transfer Silas Redd (1,241 yards/7 TDs) in the backfield. That means USC will have two 1,000 yard rushers to work into the offense. … Robert Woods and Marqise Lee make of the best receiving tandems in college football. The duo combined for 2,435 yards and 27 touchdowns. … The defense could be the best it’s been since the mid-2000 years at the school. The squad returns eight starters from a unit that was fourth in the league in total defense (374.8 ypg) including linebackers Hayes Pullard and Dion Bailey. The duo combined for 162 total tackles and six sacks.

Weaknesses: The defensive line losses three starters including tackles Christian Tupou, DaJohn Harris and end Nick Perry, who led the team in sacks last season with 9.5. Senior Wes Horton will anchor the group which also features senior Devon Kennard.

Outlook: Fresh off their two-year postseason ban, USC looks primed and ready to jump back into the national championship discussion. Seventeen returning starters and the addition of a player like Silas Redd, make the Trojans one of the preseason favorites not only in the Pac-12 but also for the BCS title game.

2012 Schedule

Sept. 1 Hawaii

Sept. 8 vs. Syracuse

Sept. 15 at Stanford

Sept. 22 California

Oct. 4 at Utah

Oct. 13 at Washington

Oct. 20 Colorado

Oct. 27 at Arizona

Nov. 3 Oregon

Nov. 10 Arizona State

Nov. 17 at UCLA

Nov. 24 Notre Dame

Rest of the countdown:
No. 2 LSU
No. 3 Oregon
No. 4 Alabama
No. 5 Oklahoma
No. 6 Georgia
No. 7 Florida State
No. 8 Michigan
No. 9 South Carolina
No. 10 Ohio State
No. 11 Kansas State
No. 12 Michigan State
No. 13 Arkansas
No. 14 Nebraska
No. 15 Clemson
No. 16 Auburn
No. 17 Virginia Tech
No. 18 West Virginia
No. 19 Texas
No. 20 TCU
No. 21 Wisconsin
No. 22 Texas A&M
No. 23 Oklahoma State
No. 24 Washington
No. 25 Baylor
No. 26 Florida
No. 27 N.C. State
No. 28 Stanford
No. 29 Notre Dame
No. 30 Louisville 
No. 31 Missouri
No. 32 Iowa
No. 33 Cincinnati
No. 34 Utah
No. 35 Penn State
No. 36 Rutgers
No. 37 Boise State
No. 38 Mississippi State
No. 39 Georgia Tech
No. 40 SMU
No. 41 Wake Forest
No. 42 Houston
No. 43 Virginia 
No. 44 Northwestern
No. 45 Miami
No. 46 Southern Miss
No. 47 USF 
No. 48 North Carolina
No. 49 Illinois
No. 50 Tulsa
No. 51 California
No. 52 UCF
No. 53 Pittsburgh
No. 54 Arizona
No. 55 BYU 
No. 56 Ohio

No. 57 Temple

No. 58 Purdue

No. 59 Arkansas State

No. 60 Vanderbilt

No. 61 Connecticut

No. 62 Arizona State

No. 63 Wyoming

No. 64 Northern Illinois

No. 65 Utah State

No. 66 Louisiana-Lafayette

No. 67 Marshall

No. 68 Western Michigan

No. 69 Louisiana Tech

No. 70 Kentucky

No. 71 Air Force

No. 72 Western Kentucky

No. 73 UCLA

No. 74 Toledo

No. 75 FIU

No. 76 San Jose State

No. 77 North Texas

No. 78 Iowa State

No. 79 Nevada

No. 80 Eastern Michigan

No. 81 Hawai’i

No. 82 East Carolina

No. 83 Texas Tech

No. 84 Washington State

No. 85 San Diego State

No. 86 Ball State

No. 87 Navy

No. 88 Tennessee

No. 89 Kent State

No. 90 Louisiana-Monroe

No. 91 Bowling Green

No. 92 Syracuse

No. 93 Minnesota

No. 94 Boston College

No. 95 Kansas

No. 96 Oregon State

No. 97 Rice

No. 98 Ole Miss

No. 99 Colorado

No. 100 New Mexico State

No. 101 Duke

No. 102 Idaho

No. 103 Army

No. 104 Maryland

No. 105 Colorado State

No. 106 Miami (Ohio)

No. 107 UTEP

No. 108 Troy

No. 109 Fresno State

No. 110 Central Michigan

No. 111 Indiana

No. 112 Memphis

No. 113 Middle Tennessee

No. 114 UAB

No. 115 Buffalo

No. 116 Tulane

No. 117: FAU

No. 118: UNLV

No. 119: Akron

No. 120: New Mexico

Follow me on Twitter: osmattmurschel

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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