College football seasons are marathons, not sprints. Teams begin the year in their shiny best, but by the end they can appear frayed.
That's where depth comes in. As good as USC is — and its talent is gaudy on offense — the Trojans still are subject to scholarship restrictions. The toll may not be evident immediately, but it could be by the time the Trojans host Oregon on Nov. 3.
Remember that USC's defensive line already has been thinned by departures and injury. None of this means the Trojans aren't a potent team — only that they're second to Alabama. If these teams met today, I'd pick Alabama's offensive line over USC's untested defensive line.
The preseason ranking is all about speculation. But once the ball goes in the air, it's all about performance — who you beat and where you beat 'em.
Based on that, there's no way you can pick USC over Alabama. Yeah, the Trojans looked practically flawless in building a 35-0 halftime lead against Hawaii. But it was Hawaii. At home.
Alabama took a gamble by agreeing to play the Big Ten's highest-ranked team (by some) at a neutral site. And that game was over by the end of the first quarter. The Crimson Tide turned a two-dimensional Heisman Trophy candidate, Denard Robinson, into a cardboard cutout. And Alabama's offensive line looked like it was ready to perform on Sundays.
Sure, it's impressive to be the top team in the country after Week 1, but by no means does it guarantee success.
USC has an impressive array of talent, led by Heisman Trophy candidate Matt Barkley at quarterback, and the Trojans looked dominant in their 49-10 win over Hawaii, but they should have won big.
Alabama, on the other hand, had questions surrounding this year's team as it looked to repeat as national champion. The Crimson Tide answered those questions emphatically with a 41-14 win over Michigan in front of a prime-time audience.
If the question refers to the Associated Press media poll, USC should be No. 1. If you're talking about the USA Today coaches poll, then Louisiana State should be No. 1.
USC opened No. 1 in the AP poll and did nothing to earn a demotion while blasting Hawaii by 39 points. LSU easily defeated North Texas, 41-14, also doing nothing to earn a demotion. So floppers, why change your vote?
Alabama was impressive in routing a top-10 Michigan team. But when the top three teams all win impressively, why make a change in Week 1?
The point is, if you voted one way before the season started, no team in the top three did anything that should change your mind.