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COLLEGE FOOTBALL USC still ranked No. 1 in AP preseason poll



Published: Sat, August 20, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The Trojans are seeking their third straight national championship.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Here's why Southern California is No. 1 in The Associated Press preseason poll:

Every player who scored a touchdown in the Trojans' 55-19 victory over Oklahoma in last season's Orange Bowl is still playing for USC. And so is Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinart, who threw five TD passes.

Leinart, Reggie Bush and the rest of Pete Carroll's crew provided a scary glimpse of what was to come in 2005 when they wrapped up their second straight national title on that warm January night in Miami.

This year's goal is three in a row, something that's never been done.

"It's always good to be on top, but at the same time we're focused and coach Carroll always reminds us, 'Don't worry about who's No. 1 or No. 2. Just stay focused,' " said sophomore receiver Dwayne Jarrett, who finished off a big freshman year with 115 yards and a touchdown in the Orange Bowl.

Five short of perfect

USC (1,619 points) received 60 out of a possible 65 first-place votes in the media poll released Saturday, grabbing the top spot in the preseason for the fifth time in school history.

"My statement on that is what I always say: It's a reflection of what's happened in the past and the respect that people show our program, so in that sense it's a really nice recognition," Carroll said, "but it doesn't amount to much until we do something about it and prove that we're worthy of that. And it's a long ways before that."

No. 2 Texas (1,500 points), coming off an 11-1 season and a Rose Bowl win, got four first-place votes. Tennessee is No. 3 and Michigan and LSU round out the top five. No. 12 Louisville received the other first-place vote.

Joe Giglio of The News & amp; Observer of Raleigh, N.C., voted Louisville No. 1 after examining the schedules for all BCS conference teams. The Cardinals moved to the Big East this season.

"Louisville was the only one that I came up with as going undefeated," he said.

Buckeyes ranked sixth

Ohio State is No. 6, one point ahead of Oklahoma and tailback Adrian Peterson. The Sooners have lost the last two Bowl Championship Series title games, and have to replace 11 NFL draft picks and 2003 Heisman winner Jason White this season.

Defending Atlantic Coast Conference champion Virginia Tech is No. 8. The Hokies have a new Vick at quarterback, Mike's little brother, Marcus.

Miami is No. 9 and No. 10 Florida, with new coach Urban Meyer, gives the Southeastern Conference three teams in the top 10.

"It says we have a lot of experience. We have a returning quarterback and some returning players on defense. It doesn't say anything about the coaches," said Meyer, who guided Utah to an undefeated record last season.

First repeat since 1994-95

USC's AP championship repeat was the 10th, and first since Nebraska did it in 1994-95.

The Cornhuskers were preseason No. 1 in 1996, but lost 19-0 at Arizona State in their second game of the season to snap a 26-game winning streak. Nebraska finished the season 11-2.

USC has won 22 straight games and has one huge advantage over that '96 Nebraska team: Leinart is a three-year starter at quarterback.

Many figured Leinart's college career was over after his record-breaking Orange Bowl. He stood a good chance at being the first pick in the NFL draft, but instead decided to return for his senior year and a shot at a second Heisman. Ohio State running back Archie Griffin is the only two-time Heisman winner.

Four votes for Texas

B.G. Brooks of the Rocky Mountain News of Denver was one of four voters to put Texas No. 1.

"I thought USC had lost too much, particularly in the coaching staff," he said.

The Trojans have only five returning starters on defense and had to replace four assistants, including offensive coordinator Norm Chow.

USC now has been ranked No. 1 in 19 straight AP polls, the second-best streak since the preseason rankings started in 1950.

"We like it because it makes us push and work harder every day just to stay on top," Jarrett said. "Being No. 1 is just going to make us push each other and compete at the highest level out here and just work as a team. "




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