LOS ANGELES —There’s no need to ask Lane Kiffin who he voted for in the AP Poll. Of course, coaches don’t get a vote in that particular poll. Nor does he have one in the coaches’ poll after relinquishing his vote earlier in the week.
The coaches thought the Trojans were the No. 3 team in the country. The AP thought different tabbing USC as their No. 1 team in the preseason poll released on Saturday.
Alabama, LSU, Oklahoma and Oregon round out the top five. The only other Pac-12 team to crack to top 25 is No. 21 Stanford.
It’s the seventh time the Trojans have opened the season as the AP’s No. 1 team and the first time in five years.
USC was ranked sixth in last season’s final AP Poll. The AP Poll does not factor into the BCS rankings, which determines participants for the national championship game. However, the AP crowns its own national champion.
The Trojans continue to be on probation with a loss of 30 scholarships over the next three seasons. However, the two-year bowl ban has been lifted. The Trojans were 8-5 during the first year of the ban, which was also the first season for Lane Kiffin as head coach in 2010. Last season, USC went 10-2 and was arguably the hottest team in the nation at the end of the regular season.
Now eligible to compete in the postseason, the Trojans have come out on the other side of the bowl ban as the No. 1 team in the country, according to the AP.
“I think it’s exciting,” said USC senior quarterback Matt Barkley. “I think it’s cool for our school, I really do, and for our fan base and for the people who stuck with us and who endured the sanctions with us.”
But the excitement along with any other good vibrations they may feel about being ranked No. 1 ends there. The motto is “Prep Not Hype” and that’s what they’re standing on.
“It doesn’t mean a whole lot to us,” said Kiffin. “As far as this team (is concerned) it will always be about the way we practice and (the ranking) won’t help us win any games this year.”
Said Barkley, “I don’t want to say it helps us in any way. You more so have to just forget about it and say ‘We’re not there yet.’ I think if you focus on that and where we are right now and those rankings, you can get complacent (and) that’s what we don’t want.”
The coaching staff has addressed the idea of complacency with the team. They’ve also pointed out how high expectations can go wrong, using examples such as Oklahoma being the preseason No. 1 last season, and the “Dream Team” talk that surrounded the Philadelphia Eagles before the 2011 season.
There are plenty of warning signs that suggest to the players that they need to stick to the script. Buying into preseason rankings isn’t a part of that.
“The only thing that matters to us is the ranking at the end and that’s a long way off still,” Barkley said.
The Trojans open the season Sept. 1 at the Coliseum against Hawaii.