Posted on October 2, 2020
In its original 2020 preseason Top 25 rankings, AP voters slotted the Trojans in at No. 17, just behind the likes of Texas, Oklahoma State and Michigan and a few ticks past North Carolina, Minnesota and Cincinnati.
Seemed fair, right? From an objective standpoint, it’s hard to make the case USC should have been any higher, but it’s also difficult to argue it deserved less coming out of the gate than the latter three of those schools I mentioned.
For the next couple weeks after that, the Trojans weren’t included in the AP’s Top 25. Totally valid! Not only was USC not playing those weeks, but it wasn’t even scheduled to; at that point, the Pac-12 Conference’s moratorium on college sports was firmly in place, and there were seemingly no plans to consider the contrary.
Top players were dropping like flies to NFL Draft declarations, and Pac-12 monarch Larry Scott perpetually reiterated that the Pac-12 was not ready to come back.
Oregon wasn’t even included in the Top 25, despite coming in at No. 9 in the preseason poll, and despite the fact that it was unquestionably one of the best 25 teams in the country. Again, fair, as Oregon didn’t play either. My qualms are none.
Now, Week 5, where the AP really goofed. This poll, which re-invited Pac-12 and Big Ten teams back to the mix following the Sept. 24 announcement that the conference was returning in early November, omitted USC from the party.
I know what you’re probably thinking: USC still isn’t playing yet!
Fair! Or at least, it would be fair. But Oregon is No. 14.
If this is the first sentence of this column you don’t read because your laptop, tablet or mobile device is now in shambles after you Gronk-Spiked it onto your living room floor or a bed of nails and thumbtacks in an outburst fueled by downright disgust, I don’t blame you. For those still mustering the will to stay with me, I appreciate your fortitude.
Yes, the two schools that ranked eight spots apart in the initial preseason poll (maybe already too large a gap to begin with, but that’s for another column following USC’s thrashing of the Ducks in the Pac-12 Championship Dec. 18), are now separated by at least 12—and, if we’re going by the number of votes each unranked team received in Week 5’s rankings, that gap is 15. And the schools haven’t even played a game yet.
Weird? I’d say.
You can make the case that USC dropped in the ranking because it didn’t have the chance to prove itself yet, and that’s a reasonable case. But the Trojans also haven’t shown anything suggesting they should drop—after all, rankings aren’t about records, they’re simply about which teams the AP thinks are the best.
You cannot possibly tell me you’re more confident in Brigham Young, Pittsburgh or Louisiana-Lafayette — which took down perennial heavyweight opponents Georgia State and Georgia Southern by a combined whopping 5 points the last two weeks — than the USC Trojans.
Oh, what’s that? You’d like to change your definition of rankings to fit your anti-USC agenda, and now you want to make it about record? Fine. Drop the No. 20 LSU Tigers (0-1) below the (effectively) No. 29 Trojans (0-0). No? That’s what I thought. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.
As much as it sounds like I may be peeved, I’m not actually that peeved that USC, which hasn’t played yet, isn’t in the Top 25. I’m peeved that it started the season as clearly one of the best 25 teams and seems to be falling considerably when the Pac-12 is idle, because if the voters dig USC into a big enough hole by the time the season starts, it’ll have an insurmountable climb to the elite ranks and only seven games to do so, difficult despite the apparent volatility of 2020 college football.
Maybe I’m overreacting. Maybe on Nov. 6, the Trojans will find themselves right around No. 17 again, around where they belong. But the first few weeks have not been encouraging in that regard.
So I shall be peeved.
—Recent Nathan Ackerman Stories—
- Ackerman: Don’t Underestimate the Impact of Alijah Vera-Tucker’s Return
- Ackerman: Game-by-Game Predictions for USC in 2020
- Ackerman: Not Playing Football in Fall Would be Catastrophic for Pac-12
- Ackerman: New Trojan Coaches Must Get More Out of Their Existing Talent
Ackerman: Don’t Underestimate the Impact of Alijah Vera-Tucker’s ReturnThe offensive lineman’s decision to opt back in eases several concerns for the Trojans - October 16, 2020
Ackerman: Game-by-Game Predictions for USC in 2020The Trojans aren't likely to go undefeated but, would likely play in the title game with one loss - October 8, 2020
Ackerman: AP Voters Disrespected Trojans in Leaving them Out of Latest PollDropping USC from the Top 25 while ranking Oregon shows the media's inconsistency - October 2, 2020