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Preseason magazines spark excitement for college football

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LOS ANGELES -- Thanks to the massive popularity of last season’s College Football Playoff and the tradition-rich growth of the sport, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that last week, while still in mid-May, the first college football magazines arrived on national newsstands everywhere.

Long gone are the days of Street and Smith’s College Yearbook arriving in early August. Preseason college football magazine appearances in July are now a distant memory, and those June newsstand magazine debuts -- once considered way too early -- appear likely headed for distribution date reassessment.

Like college football fans across the country, USC Trojans devotees are no different in their zest to earlier than ever read about their beloved team -- a team that, according to a couple of early bird May publications (The Sporting News and Athlon) has been pre-ranked No. 6 in the country. (The Trojans are also ranked No. 5 by ESPN.)

If there is, however, a publication damper on the No. 6 Trojans' lofty preseason status, it’s the fact that the Cardinal and Gold are still ranked behind Oregon (No. 4) in The Sporting News, a justifiable annoyance given the Trojans return senior Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback Cody Kessler while the Ducks are still quacking around trying to figure out who is the best fit to replace Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota.

Perhaps even more vexing to Trojans fans is that The Sporting News has Kessler all by his lonesome and no QB challenger from the mallards. It all makes for good, old-fashioned preseason fodder before the two teams actually meet at Oregon Nov. 21.

For the record, both The Sporting News and Athlon predict the Trojans' Pac-12 postseason bowl assignment won’t be a College Football Playoff bracketing but a New Year’s Day appearance in the Rose Bowl against the Big Ten’s Michigan State Spartans, which should bring a “traditional” smile to the Tournament of Roses about as long and wide as celebrated Colorado Boulevard.

Honestly, emerging from the depths of NCAA despair and injustice, most Trojans fans would probably be wildly enthusiastic to be in the 2016 Rose Bowl Game if a CFP appearance wasn’t in the offing. Don’t think for a moment the Trojans family would be on the verge of a gridiron nervous breakdown if the Men of Troy miss out this season on making the CFP.

Disappointed? Yes.

Devastated? No.

And with all due respect to the Tournament of Roses, a spot in the CFP would be the highest validation for head coach Steve Sarkisian and his growing program.

In both The Sporting News and Athlon, it’s being predicted that Sark’s Trojans are a dark horse to be selected for the CFP semifinals, which would bring a huge Cardinal and Gold grin to USC athletic director Pat Haden, who just happens to be on the CFP selection committee and has guided the Trojans through the NCAA swamp of near-draconian sanctions.

And if you're still wondering what a spot in the College Football Playoff means in terms of national exposure, the CFP was named Sports Event of the Year last week by Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal. Sark would certainly welcome that type of super exposure to his program.

From a USC fan’s point of view, the early arrival of the aforementioned magazines injects a healthy dose of unabashed optimism. And if the law of supply and demand justifies it, don’t be surprised from a business standpoint if the publishers of the other forthcoming magazines move up their distribution date in 2016.

Let’s face it: USC and college football fans can’t get enough of their sport, and as it applies to college football magazines, May is never too soon.