- Kevin Gemmell, College Football
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No surprise, all five of Athlon's analysts picked depth as the No. 1 concern for the Trojans heading into 2012 -- particularly the lack of experience on the defensive line.
Here's a few snippets:
Writes David Fox: The area where USC could have the most trouble is on the defensive line. The Trojans are young, inexperienced and thin here, especially at defensive tackle. If we’ve learned one thing over the past few years, the key to winning a title -- and beating Oregon under Chip Kelly -- is strong play at defensive tackle. USC is counting on sophomores and freshmen to fill out this position.
Writes Braden Gall: USC is loaded for bear on offense, has an awesome coaching staff and a manageable schedule, but any sort of key injuries could completely derail a deep title run. And in a one-game situation, I have major concerns about the young and inexperienced defensive line getting stops against the likes of Barrett Jones, D.J. Fluker, Chris Faulk or Alex Hurst.
Writes Mark Ross: Barring injuries at a few key positions, most notably quarterback, I think USC has more than enough depth to do what it needs to do to get to the national title game. Let's face it, if Matt Barkley goes down to injury, the Trojans' title hopes probably go with him.
We're going to learn a lot about this team during a very challenging four-game stretch in September and early October, when the Trojans travel to Stanford, are home to Cal and then play back-to-back road games at Utah and at Washington.
At this point, there is no reason to think the Trojans won't be favored in all four of those games. But Stanford, Cal and Utah have three of the toughest defensive fronts in the conference (pick the order according to which team you cheer for), so if they can make it through that stretch relatively unscathed, it should set up nicely for Nov. 3 showdown with Oregon. And, yes, Oregon is certainly in the discussion for top defensive front in the conference as well.
You can always make an argument for injuries being a point of concern. But some teams are able to absorb a loss better than others. No one likes injuries, so hopefully we get to see the best of all the teams in the Pac-12 this year.
As part of its USC package, Athlon Sports, which ranked USC as the No. 1 team in the nation, also examined the biggest hurdle the Trojans have to overcome en route to a BCS championship.