USC (AP rank: No. 6)
The USC Trojans have been a popular pick to make the College Football Playoff among sports bettors. It’s not hard to see why. Led by transfer QB Caleb Williams, the Trojan offense looked unstoppable through the first three weeks of the season. With all of the weapons at Williams’ disposal — Jordan Addison, Mario Williams, Tahj Washington, Brenden Rice, Travis Dye, Austin Jones — it truly looked like their offense could score whenever they want.
Then last week, the Trojans went into Corvallis to play a tough Oregon State team, and their offense went dormant. But it was their defense, who’s tied for first in the country with 14 turnovers, that saved the day. The run defense has looked holey at times, but the bend-but-don’t-break philosophy has seemed to work thus far. And the big-play turnovers have really catapulted this team to relevant status.
It’s still early, but the Trojans have checked all the boxes so far as a true Playoff contender. As they lead the league in forced turnovers, they’re also the only team in the country yet to give one up. Lincoln Riley deserves a lot of credit for changing the culture of that team so quickly.
[Full disclosure: I’m a USC grad.]