Seeing Trojans the way ESPN sees them

Pac-12 bloggers take on USC. You might be surprised at the results.

Here's another way to look at this USC football team -- through the eyes of the ever-expanding band of ESPN Pac-12 bloggers, now numbering five. With that sort of crew, the ESPN's Pac-12 blog generates lots of looking-ahead stuff.

And lots of it, whether they like it or not, whether there's an LA person or a dedicated USC person or not, is USC-centric. But it's not just ESPN's Pac-12 people who are taking a look at the Trojans.

There's this from the collective ESPN noting the "100 Things ESPN Looking Forward To" this season. Seven involve USC, USC players or one former USC guy.

The first is No. 7 on the list: "Adoree’ Jackson in the open field" (with a link to his 98-yard Holiday Bowl kickoff return against Nebraska). Opening opponent Arkansas State is No. 23 with the wish that they can top their famous "fainting goat" when they had a slot receiver fall over backwards and lie there as if he's fainted dead away as the motion guy runs by him hoping to distract opponent Miami (Ed. Note: an earlier version of this story had the opponent as Marshall but it was Miami). It didn't work. The U players waited until he got up and then went after him.

OK, that's all fun and games but not the next one, No. 34: "USC vs. UCLA in the battle for Los Angeles." Here's what ESPN says about it: "Since coach Jim Mora settled in Westwood, the Bruins are 3-0 against their crosstown rival, on the heels of a five-game USC winning streak capped by a 50-0 thumping in 2011 that painted the Trojans as a dominant force in L.A. Not so much. Although USC owns the fertile recruiting ground of Southern California -- as evidenced by the signing of stars like Adoree' Jackson during this mini-UCLA streak -- Mora and his staff are charging hard."

Coach O, now at LSU, gets a call at No. 36: "Ed Orgeron head-butting one of his defensive tackles." Or maybe there could be some head-butting involved in No. 40: "The impact of a new coordinator of officials on #Pac12Refs." We can only hope.

Then there's No. 68: "How Cody Kessler handles Heisman, playoff hype." Again, we can only hope. Here's the ESPN take: "Kessler enjoyed a junior season statistically comparable to the USC Heisman-winning campaigns a decade ago of Matt Leinart and Carson Palmer. But thanks to Oregon’s Marcus Mariota and other QBs nationally with more notoriety, the USC signal-caller largely flew under the radar. No more. After he set school records for completions and completion percentage, much will be expected from Kessler. Expectations skyrocket, too, for the Trojans. Expect the steady fifth-year senior to take it all in stride."

And finally, there's this at No. 89: "Can much-improved Notre Dame team handle tough slate?" ESPN asks: "The Irish overcame a challenging early schedule to start 6-0 in 2014, but the accumulation of wear hit them hard in November. This group is more veteran, with eight starters back on offense and 10 on defense, in addition to the potential difference-makers Keivarae Russell and Ishaq Williams. The Irish should be more prepared for a top-loaded schedule that includes Texas, Clemson, Georgia Tech and USC before Halloween."

USC tops Pac position group rankings

Trojan fans might be surprised at this one but according to ESPN, USC has the most top-line depth going position group by position group ranking seven spots for each team in the league. Amazingly, the Trojans are in the top group -- a "position group of strength" ESPN calls them -- for every position.

Only UCLA gets into the top group as many as five times with Arizona State making it four times while Oregon and Stanford get there in three of the seven positions.

USC, with Kessler and Max Browne, is No. 1 at quarterback. USC's linebackers, offensive line and wide receivers are No. 2 in the league to UCLA's wide receivers and O-line and Arizona's Scooby Wright-led linebackers.

USC's D-line is third behind Oregon and UCLA. And the Trojans are No. 4 at defensive back (behind ASU, Oregon and UCLA) and No. 4 at running back (behind Oregon, UCLA and Utah).

We averaged out the rankings and USC's seven position groups came out first overall with an average 2.6 ranking to UCLA's 3.3. Nobody else was all that close.

Which when you come to think of where this program has been, limited by NCAA sanctions to just 15 scholarships the three years from 2012 through 2014, that should make some folks very uneasy now that they're back to 25 with everybody else.

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