Southern California will begin defense of its first national title in 31 years as the No. 1 team in the nation.
The Trojans earned the top spot in the preseason Associated Press poll released Saturday by receiving 48 of 65 first-place votes and 1,603 points.
It's the first time since 1979 the Trojans are preseason No. 1 and the fourth time overall. They also started No. 1 in 1963 and '73.
Oklahoma, which was No. 1 for most of last season before losing its final two games, was No. 2 with 11 first-place votes and 1,529 points in the media poll. Heisman Trophy winner Jason White leads the Sooners.
Georgia was No. 3, followed by fellow Southeastern Conference member and defending co-national champion Louisiana State at No. 4. The Bulldogs received five first-place votes, and the Tigers got the remaining first-place vote.
No. 5 Florida State and No. 6 Miami open the regular season against each for the first time as Atlantic Coast Conference rivals on Sept. 6. They are separated in the poll by just four points (1,291-1,287).
The Trojans enter the 2004 season with a nine-game winning streak.
USC went 12-1 last season and finished top-ranked in the AP poll, despite being left out of the Bowl Championship Series title game. LSU beat Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl and was voted No. 1 in the final coaches poll, as required by the BCS.
The Trojans return only nine starters from last year's team that set Pac-10 records for touchdowns (68) and points (534).
Matt Leinart, who threw for 3,556 yards and 38 touchdowns in his first season as a starter, directs an offense that is lacking only in experience.
Texas was No. 7 with Big Ten rivals Michigan and Ohio State eighth and ninth, respectively. No. 10 West Virginia, the heavy favorite in the reconfigured Big East, has never been ranked higher in the preseason.
The Big Ten leads all conferences with six teams in the preseason poll. The SEC and ACC each have five.
Top five teams in AP preseason poll, with first-place votes in parentheses and total points.1. Southern Cal (48)1,6032. Oklahoma (11)1,5293. Georgia (5)1,4804. LSU (1)1,4465. Florida State1,291
Local RANKINGS: 15. Clemson638Georgia Tech5South Carolina4
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