Top 25 teams and games — No. 1 Southern Cal


Published: Sunday, June 29, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, June 30, 2008 at 12:16 a.m.

Team No. 1 Southern Cal

The buzz: The Trojans must replace a lot of big-time players from a year ago, but Pete Carroll clearly has this program in the reload mode because of the outstanding job he has done in recruiting. This is a talented team that figures to steadily improve over the course of the season as it gains experience. USC is on a definite high coming off the 49-17 trouncing of Illinois in the Rose Bowl.

Difference-maker: Returning All-America safety Taylor Mays could be the nation's best defensive player. At 6-4, 225, he is a big-time hitter and intimidator, and he also covers a lot of ground playing center field. He's Reggie Nelson with a lot more size.

The upside: The Trojans are young on a lot of levels, but not in the defensive back seven. USC has two of the nation's most dominating linebackers in Brian Cushing and All-America Rey Maualuga, and the safety combination of Mays and Kevin Ellison is the best this side of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Another plus is that new No. 1 quarterback Mark Sanchez started three games last season.

The downside: USC has plenty of exciting young playmakers on offense, but the line is green, with only one starter returning. The Trojans also do not appear as dominant up front on defense as they were a year ago with All-America nose tackle Sedrick Ellis.

Schedule factor: Unlike a year ago, the Trojans played their toughest games at home, headlined by the Sept. 13 showdown with Ohio State. Oregon, Arizona State and California also have to come to the Coliseum.

Game No. 1 Ohio State at Southern Cal

Where: The Coliseum, Los Angeles, Calif.

When: Sept. 13.

Why it's sexy: This could be the biggest early season showdown in college football in many years. It's going to feature two top five (maybe even top two) teams in the nation, teams that have their sights on Miami and the BCS Championship Game in January.

Preseason buzz: The winner establishes itself as one of the early favorites to reach the national championship game in Miami. The loser will have some catching up to do, which certainly is possible. Ohio State has one of the nation's most experienced teams, while USC is young (but very talented) in some key areas, including the offensive line.

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