The Associated Press released its preseason college football poll Saturday, and the Trojans edged defending national champion Alabam for the top spot, garnering 25 first-place votes to the Crimson Tide's 17.
USC returns Heisman contender Matt Barkley at quarterback and will receive a boost at running back with the addition of transfer Silas Redd from Penn State. Redd rushed for 1,241 yards and seven touchdowns last season for the Nittany Lions, but transferred because of the penalties imposed on Penn State by the NCAA.
USC finished 10-2 (7-2 Pac-12) last season, which would have been good enough to win the Pac-12 South had the Trojans not been banned from the postseason following the Reggie Bush scandal.
Though Alabama lost top defenders Mark Barron, Courtney Upshaw and Dont'a Hightower to the NFL, it's still stocked with talent on that side of the ball, and the Crimson Tide return quarterback A.J. McCarron, who completed 66.8 percent of his passes last year while leading the team to its second national championship in three years.
LSU, who lost last year's BCS title game to Alabama, came in third with 16 first-place votes. LSU topped the preseason USA Today coaches' poll, but star cornerback and return man Tyrann Mathieu was booted from the team on Aug. 10, likely impacting the Tigers' spot in the AP poll.
Oklahoma was fourth while Pac-12 and Rose Bowl champion Oregon enters the season ranked fifth. Georgia, Florida State, Michigan, South Carolina and Arkansas round out an SEC-heavy top 10.
The season is set to begin on Aug. 30, with a slate of 17 games highlighted by No. 9 South Carolina's visit to Vanderbilt. UMass also travels to East Harford, Conn. for its first game as an FBS program against Connecticut.
The first full Saturday of games is Sept. 1, as No. 2 Alabama faces No. 8 Michigan in Arlington in the Cowboys Classic.
Check out the full Top 25 below (first-place votes in parentheses).
1. USC (25)
2. Alabama (17)
3. LSU (16)
4. Oklahoma (1)
7. Florida State
8. Michigan (1)
9. South Carolina
11. West Virginia
13. Michigan State
16. Virginia Tech
18. Ohio State
19. Oklahoma State
20. Texas Christian
22. Kansas State
24. Boise State