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USC vs. UCLA: Where could the Trojans rank among the most disappointing teams ever?

Their season isn't over. USC could still ruin an archrival's return to glory and win a decent bowl game against a respectable opponent. But these were not the things the Trojans were hoping for.

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Harry How

Saturday, the USC Trojans became the first preseason No. 1 since 1984 to lose four games. But that 1984 Auburn team played the country's sixth-hardest schedule (according to SOS) and ended the season ranked No. 14 in the final AP poll, a landing spot that would only be attainable for No. 18 (and falling) USC with wins over Notre Dame and a significant bowl opponent.

If USC loses to No. 3 Notre Dame next week, they'll be the second preseason No. 1 to ever drop five games and the first since Ole Miss in 1964. A loss in the bowl game would make them the first to ever lose six, though since those older teams didn't have to play anywhere near 13 games, saying they'd finish a game above .500 might be fairer. Three preseason No. 1s have hit that mark, but none in 48 years.

Via USA Today's Paul Myerberg, a list of the previous AP preseason No. 1 teams who've finished the year ranked outside the Top 10 (there was no preseason AP poll until 1950):

  • Georgia, 2008: 10-3 (No. 13)
  • Penn State, 1997: 9-3 (No. 16)
  • Auburn, 1984: 9-4 (No. 14)
  • Michigan, 1981: 9-3 (No. 12)
  • Ohio State, 1980: 9-3 (No. 15)
  • Notre Dame, 1971: 8-2 (No. 13)
  • Mississippi, 1964: 5-5 (unranked)
  • USC, 1963: 7-3 (unranked)
  • Ohio State, 1962: 6-3 (unranked)
  • Iowa, 1961: 5-4 (unranked)
  • Notre Dame, 1950: 4-4-1 (unranked)

But there are other ways of looking at disappointment. This year's Arkansas Razorbacks crafted the second-biggest drop in poll history after losing to ULM, then went on to guarantee themselves a losing record. Only Michigan's 2007 loss to Appalachian State made for a bigger fall, but those Wolverines bounced back to finish as ranked bowl-winners.

There's also the 2000 Alabama team, which started the year ranked No. 3 but left the rankings after three weeks, never to return -- they finished 3-8 and shut out by Auburn. In my mind, the last Mike DuBose team retains the crown no matter what USC does from here on out. Other recent teams in this realm include 2005 Tennessee (from No. 3 to 5-6) and 1999 Arizona (from No. 4 to 6-6).

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