Early 2012 college football polls — setting Southern Cal up for a big fall?

Matt Hinton (aka Dr. Saturday) wrote an article on the outlook of the LSU Tigers for 2012. He remarked not only how much talent the Tigers will be losing to the NFL but also how young this 2011 team really was. Young enough to be named the Number One ranked team in the majority of early 2012 polls.

In his assessment of the polls recently published by Rivals, Sports Illustrated, The Sporting News, ESPN, USA Today, Athlon, CBS, SBN, The Mercury-News, and The Orlando Sentinel, Hinton averaged all of the rankings to come up with an early 2012 consensus poll. Here they are.

  1. LSU
  2. Southern Cal
  3. Alabama
  4. Oregon
  5. Oklahoma

Bruce Feldman of CBSsports.com ranked the Trojans at the top spot in his poll. He pointed to USC’s experience on offense as well as the return of the entire starting back seven on defense.

Their schedule doesn’t hurt either. In the Pac-12, USC will be hosting Oregon. Their toughest road trip appears to be Palo Alto. And, their non-conference foes comprise only Hawaii, Syracuse, and Notre Dame — all at home.

All of this potential success is on the horizon despite the school cutting scholarships as the Trojan program prepares for the NCAA sanctions. The NCAA allows for 85 maximum players on scholarship. The sanctions, in the wake of former Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush’s receipt of improper benefits and the university’s lack of institutional control, restrict USC to 75 for the next three seasons, and the school can sign only 15 players each year, 10 fewer than the maximum allowable.

So depth will be the biggest impediment to success in the upcoming seasons. And it is depth that can play that fine line between fruition and fiasco.

Do we need to remind ourselves that Lane Kiffin is the coach of the Number Two team? We may soon find out if leaving Tennessee was a bed of Rose Bowls for Mr. Kiffin or a thorny crown of unfulfilled expectations. Karma can work in delicious ways.

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