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It's not USC's fault the Trojans were picked to win the Pac-12

It's fair to say USC is underachieving, but not fair to hold the Trojans to a Playoff standard.

Harry How/Getty Images

USC has problems.

The "Seven-win Sark" label the Trojans' head coach just can't shake from his time at Washington.

A regretful drunken incident.

Most recently, allowing 41 points at home to a Stanford team that two weeks earlier could manage just six in a loss to Northwestern.

Bizarrely, the team's one major problem was ignored in the preseason, leading to USC being voted as the Pac-12 favorite and mentioned as a national title contender. The Trojans simply do not have enough depth.

USC has recruited about as well as any team in the country over the last four years on a per-player basis. But the NCAA sanctions that feel like forever ago really are still impacting this team in a quantifiable way.

Do you know what team has signed the fewest recruits in the last four classes?

That's right, it's USC, with 71. For whatever reason, USC had the fifth-best odds to win the national championship this preseason, yet the top 15 teams in those national title odds aside from USC signed an average of 94 players in that span. That's basically an extra recruiting class in that time frame.

Even more stark is the number signed in the three classes before the most recent, or, in other words, the players who are now in their second, third and fourth years in college football. In that time, USC signed just 46. The other teams in the national championship preseason odds inked an average of 71, or roughly 53 percent more.

That lack of bodies means that every injury hurts USC more than the average elite program, as does every bust.

It is fair to say that USC is underachieving. It's fair to question if Steve Sarkisian is a good coach, especially after dropping a home game in that fashion to a Stanford program that was just 6-6 in its last 12 games against power teams. But it is unfair to hold the Trojans to the standard of a Playoff-caliber team when its roster indicates it is anything but.


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