I don't understand the two underlined, since they're inconsistent. If you are using the world rankings, Berkeley is way ahead of Michigan, but Wisconsin is even further ahead of USC. If you look at the ASU research, Wisconsin is similarly above USC and Berkeley and Michigan tie.
US News likes USC for being private, but their undergrad rankings are not at all credible with no public school in the top 20 and similar private bias throughout. Is anyone going to argue with a straight face that Duke, Rice, Emory and WUSTL are superior to Berkeley or that those schools + USC are superior to Michigan?
I agree with what you've said here, but I have a question about the bolded. I haven't read the thread, but are we still using the USNEWS world university rankings? Because those place Michigan at 19, and Berkeley at 39. Not making any judgment on whether I agree with that (ok, I will - Berkeley should be far higher than 39), but just asking for clarity since I read this and really would like to avoid reading the whole thread.