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Monday, January 30, 2012
Looking at another early poll

By Matt Fortuna

College football guru Phil Steele took a crack at predicting next season's preseason top 10 Monday, which, he stresses, is not where he thinks each team belongs, but where he thinks each team will appear.

Steele is pretty good at this stuff, nailing nine of the preseason top 10 teams in each of the past three seasons.

While Notre Dame did not make the top 10 (or 11), three of the Irish's 2012 opponents did.

USC is No. 2, Oklahoma is No. 5 and Michigan is No. 7.

Regarding the Trojans, Steele writes:
Last year while the probation-stricken Trojans were not eligible to play in the Pac-12 title game, I picked them to be the best team in the South and clearly they were just that going 10-2 (7-2) beating their crosstown rival Bruins who were the de facto Pac-12 South Champs 50-0 in the regular season finale! The Trojans locked up their spot here with the surprising return of QB Matt Barkley who is clearly one of the Heisman favorites in 2012. He will have plenty of skill position talent surrounding him with his top 2 WR’s Robert Woods and Marqise Lee back and 1,000 yd rusher Curtis McNeal also returning. A case could be made at the end of last season that no team in the country was hotter than USC winning 7 of their last 8 games with a 3OT loss to Stanford their only blemish. With 15 returning starters, the Trojans clearly will be one of the favorites to take home the crystal ball.

Also worth noting is the Irish's last opponent of the 2011 season, Florida State, which comes in at No. 8.

Michigan State, which has made regular top-10 appearances in early polls, was left out of Steele's top 10.