Bruce Feldman, a veteran college football columnist who joined CBSsports.com last year, has installed USC as the No. 1 team in his early preseason rankings.
Times college football columnist Chris Dufresne last week ranked USC No. 2 behind Louisiana State going into the 2012 season.
Feldman pointed to USC's offensive experience -- quarterback Matt Barkley, receivers Robert Woods and Marqise Lee and tailback Curtis McNeal -- and the return of the entire starting back seven on defense.
He noted that replacements must be found on the offensive and defensive lines, but still put the Trojans ahead of LSU and Alabama, who played in the Bowl Championship Series title game last week.
"I realize that it probably seems foolish to list anyone other than an SEC team in the No. 1 spot," Feldman wrote, "but if there's any college QB up for such an undertaking, it's Barkley, and he's got the weapons to pull it off."
USC opens its season Sept. 1 against Hawaii.
Photo: Quarterback Matt Barkley and Coach Lane Kiffin are two reasons USC fans are optimistic about next season. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times.