Expectations for USC are very, very high. Pacific Takes believes that USC could be a top 10 team. Mark Schlabach believes as of right now that the Trojans are a top 5 team. College football guru Phil Steele believes USC will make the playoffs this season. The outside experts maintain lofty expectations for the Trojans to be sure.
What happens if USC does not make the playoffs? Generally when something fails to live up to expectations we are left woefully disappointed. Frequently it does not matter how good that thing objectively was. If we were hoping or expecting something to turn out one way, and that fails to happen we tend to feel disappointed.
Have you ever had all of your friends talk to you about a TV show and for weeks they all ranted and raved about how it was just the absolute best show ever to grace the television screen? What happened when you finally broke down and watched a couple of episodes? You probably thought it was ok, but certainly not the best TV show you've ever watched. That's an example of your expectations being too high. Your friends had you believing that this show was so amazing that your life would change forever. When the show was "merely" a great TV show but not life-changing you eventually stopped watching in disappointment.
I worry that this same effect will happen to some USC fans this year. The outside media might be overvaluing the Trojans right now and filling our heads with visions of playoff glory. What happens though if Coach Sarkisian in only his second season and still trying to pull USC out of the NCAA sanction hole cannot yet deliver a top 4 finish? It is an expectation that will be awfully difficult (but by no means impossible) to meet, particularly when you consider the schedule.
With the expectations of making the playoffs, will anything less disappoint? What if USC finishes the year 12-2 winning the Rose Bowl as well as the Pac 12? Will we consider that a disappointing season because they failed to make the playoffs? Consider Pete Carroll's second season when the Trojans finished 11-2 as co-conference champions and won the Orange Bowl. Was that a disappointing season? Did the fact that they were merely 6-6 a year before change the perception of finishing 11-2?
To be perfectly clear, I'm not saying USC cannot or will not make the playoffs, this is college football, and any number of bizarre and unpredictable things can, and will happen between now and January (like Ohio State winning the national championship last season for example). So many unexpected things can go wrong, and so many unexpected things can go right. It is insane, it is nerve-wracking, and it is also why we love college football. And honestly, if the biggest problem we have is that people have a tinge too much faith in the Trojans (right now), then I will take that any day.