BURBANK—Don’t look now Southern California fans, but your Trojans are back on top of the infamous Pac 12 Preseason Poll.
USC was chosen as the favorite to win the 2015 Pac-12 Conference football title in a preseason poll vote of 45 media members on Thursday, July 30.
Five teams received votes as the conference champion, but the Trojans—last picked to win the title via the preseason poll in 2012—came out on top after collecting 21 of 45 votes, knocking off the defending Pac-12 champion, Oregon, by four votes. The Ducks are the favorite to win the North division, while USC is picked to win the South.
“I always tell our guys, whatever the noise is that you listen to, if it’s your girlfriend, your wife, the media, Twitter, whoever, if you use that for motivation, great,” Oregon coach Mark Helfrich said. “If you use it to dwell on or think about something else, that does nobody any good. So if somebody’s sitting at home going, ‘Those jerks didn’t vote us for whatever!’ and they go lift. Great. But we don’t think about that too much.”
Oregon has won four of the last Pac-12 titles and was the media pick to win the league the past five out of six seasons. The Ducks played in the first-ever national championship game of the college football playoff series.
While Helfrich and his team work to do all they can to win back-to-back conference championships and ultimately, prove the media wrong, this year’s preseason favorite hopes to win its first Pac-12 title since 2008; a title that in years past, seemed to be synonymous with the Trojan football program.
USC was the team to beat in the Pac-12 for a pretty lengthy stretch of time during the 1990s. They have won 38 Pac-12 titles, 33 bowl games and 11 national championships. A total of 163 All-Americans have played in a cardinal and gold uniform and six Heisman trophy winners have played in the program.
Three years ago, when the Trojans were last picked to win the league, they struggled throughout the entire season and failed miserably to live up to the preseason expectations. They finished the year 7-6 and unranked, and coach Lane Kiffin was fired less than a year later.
This year, USC returns 16 starters—8 on offense, 7 on defense and the punter—from head coach Steve Sarkisian’s debut team in 2014, anchored by Heisman Trophy and All-American candidate quarterback Cody Kessler, who had the most efficient passing season in USC history (69.7 percent completions, 39 TD’s, 5 interceptions) while setting or tying 6 school season records.
Along with Kessler is dynamic young talent on both sides of the ball. In all, 77 players on the roster return and, of those, 52 saw action last season.
USC’s depth should improve dramatically in 2015 as well, as the sanctions-free Trojans welcome the No. 1 ranked recruiting class in the country, according to many observers. The Trojans roster will be made up of 24 newcomers, five of them who enrolled at Troy this past January and participated in spring practice.
“We’ve got talented players. It’s a matter of getting them ready to play by the time the season rolls around,” Sarkisian said. “We came here to win championships. That’s why I chose to come, that’s why the players chose to come. That’s the goal”