This article is part of our Summer Stock series, a three-week look at the programs generating the most buzz coming out of spring practice.
The USC Trojans won't officially be competing for a Pac-12 championship or BCS bowl game this fall due to NCAA sanctions that render the team ineligible for postseason play. But the Trojans still are going to line up in 12 regular-season games motivated by pride in the past and future of the program. And in terms of talent on the field, they'll be expected to win almost every one of their games.
Coach Lane Kiffin and his staff picked up right where Pete Carroll left off on the recruiting front, signing consecutive top-10 recruiting classes and a total of 29 four- and five-star recruits in the past two seasons. One of the factors we use in our annual Football Outsiders preseason projections is recent recruiting success, and USC's five-year ranking in that category is second only to Alabama's over that span.
The baseline for next-season success is rooted in five-year performance on the field as well. The luster of USC's decade of dominance wore off a bit in the past few years, but the Trojans are still a top-10 program according to Program FEI. Both participants in each of the past 10 BCS championship games were top-20 programs heading into that season. Even if the Trojans' trajectory has been less than stellar over the past five seasons, the numbers are impressive.
In other words, USC's 8-5 campaign last season was far from disastrous, and there are reasons to believe the Trojans have an opportunity to rebound with a stronger season this fall.