Mark Schlabach writes in this report that the Trojans have a "legitimate chance" at competing for the Bowl Championship Series title.
"They better do it this coming season, because the effects of NCAA sanctions and scholarship reductions will start being felt in 2013," Schlabach wrote. "Even with a smaller recruiting class, USC coach Lane Kiffin was able to add some much-needed help with linebacker Jabari Ruffin and receiver Nelson Agholor. The Trojans were one of the country's younger teams this past season, with 10 freshmen and sophomores starting. The Trojans will play six home games and six road games this season, including a Sept. 15 road trip to Stanford and a Nov. 3 home game against Oregon."
Alabama, Louisiana State, Oklahoma and Georgia follow the Trojans in the rankings.
Of course, USC is still seven months from its opener.
The Trojans start spring practice March 6.