USC should be No. 1 in 2012

Matt Barkley and USC could climb to the top of the preseason polls this summer. Gary A. Vasquez/US Presswire

The SEC won its sixth consecutive BCS national championship Monday night as the Alabama Crimson Tide defeated their division and conference rival, the LSU Tigers.

Both teams will surely be in the top five of next preseason's polls, and based on the young upcoming talent in Tuscaloosa and Baton Rouge, both will be contending for years to come. For that reason, it's only natural to assume that in 2012 the rest of the college football world will continue to play catch-up with the best conference in America: the SEC.

However, the sport will be forced to look West next season, not just at those Oregon Ducks and their "Battlestar Galactica" uniforms, but at the USC Trojans. The Men of Troy may have been the hottest team to end the 2011 season, and they will be the most difficult matchup for any opponent in 2012.

USC coach Lane Kiffin wants no part in this conversation. He won't be politicking for preseason votes, and he absolutely enjoyed having his team play the underdog role in 2011. But the 2012 season will be a different story; on Dec. 22, when Matt Barkley decided to bring his talents back to L.A., the Trojans became a serious national title contender.

Here are five reasons why USC should be ranked No. 1 -- yes, over even Alabama and LSU -- in the preseason polls come August.

1. The abundance of talent
One NFL general manager told me last week that USC has five current first-rounders on the roster -- and that's just on offense. Barkley will be the preseason Heisman favorite and the No. 1 prospect in Mel Kiper's and Todd McShay's rankings. Wide receivers Robert Woods and Marqise Lee are rare, record-setting talents who each tallied more than 1,000 receiving yards in 2011.