USC is beginning the 2004 season where many felt it should have ended the 2003 campaign — atop the Coaches’ poll.

The Trojans went 12-1 last season and routed Michigan in the Rose Bowl but earned just a split of the national championship. All but three of the 63 coaches — obligated to vote for the winner of the BCS title game — cast their first-place ballots for Louisiana State, which defeated Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl.

USC, which returns numerous stars from last year’s squad, earned 44 of the 61 first-place votes and 1,500 points.

The Sooners (12-2), who finished third in last year’s final poll, received 12 first-place votes and are second with 1,426 points. LSU (13-1) garnered the other five first-place votes and is third with 1,387 points.

Georgia (11-3), which finished sixth last year, is fourth, followed by Miami (11-2), which is joining the Atlantic Coast Conference this season.

Florida State (10-3) is sixth, followed by Michigan (10-3), Texas (10-3), Ohio State (11-2) and Florida (8-5).

West Virginia (8-5), which is expected to highlight a depleted Big East Conference, begins the season 11th, followed by Iowa (10-3), Kansas State (11-4), Tennessee (10-3) and California (8-6) – the only team to beat USC last season.

Clemson (9-4) is 16th, while Missouri (8-5), Auburn (8-5), Virginia (8-5), Maryland (10-3), Utah (10-2), Wisconsin (7-6), Minnesota (10-3), Purdue (9-4) and Oregon (8-5) complete the poll.

Nebraska (10-3), which is under first-year coach Bill Callahan, leads the group of others receiving votes.

Complete Coaches Poll Here – CLICK HERE