USC Football No. 1 In Preseason Coaches Poll

July 30, 2004

Defending national champion USC will open the college football season at No. 1, easily ahead of Oklahoma in the preseason USA TODAY/ESPN coaches' poll. The Trojans received 44 of 61 first-place votes and were no lower than fifth on any ballot. LSU, co-champion last year with USC, is third.

USC coach Pete Carroll hopes to be hoisting the national championship trophy again this season after the Orange Bowl.

'I think it's a statement of respect for our program, and hopefully we can live up to it,' USC coach Pete Carroll said.

It's the first time since 1979--the last time USC was coming off a national championship season--that the Trojans have been ranked No. 1 by either AP or the Coaches in the preseason.

The Trojans return 55 players who saw playing time last season, including 24 who have started at least once in their career, including quarterback Matt Leinart, a Heisman Trophy candidate, and the top three running backs. The eligibility status of star wide receiver Mike Williams is unclear.

Florida State is the only team to start and finish the season No. 1 (1993, '99) since USA TODAY began administering the coaches' poll in 1991. The last two Bowl Championship Series titles were won by teams ranked 12th or worse in the preseason.

The revised BCS formula, which determines which teams will play in the national title game, gives greater weight to the coaches' and Associated Press media polls. Those polls combined are worth two-thirds in the formula. Computer ratings make the other third.

The coaches' poll was controversial last season because in the final regular-season ranking, 37 of the 63 coaches cast first-place votes for USC. However, the coaches are required by their governing body, the American Football Coaches Association, to name the winner of the BCS title game their No. 1 team. As a result, they had to hand those first-place ballots to LSU, which beat Oklahoma in the BCS title game. Three coaches broke ranks and cast first-place votes for USC.

'We have done a much more thorough job of making sure those on our board of voters understand the commitment made,' says Grant Teaff, the executive director of the AFCA.

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