USC Trojans Look to Answer the Critics in Home Opener

Lane Kiffin has much to prove in home opener

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK

    The #14 USC Trojans have much to prove as they square off against the Virginia Cavaliers in the Coliseum on Saturday. This game marks many “firsts” for the Trojans:

    • First home game in the 2010 season.
    • Lane Kiffin’s leads the Trojans into the Coliseum for the first time as Head Coach.
    • With no opportunity for a Bowl Game or to play for a National Championship, this will be the first opportunity to see how fans react after the NCAA lowered the boom on the Trojan football team.

    THE REVIEW/PREVIEW

    REVIEW: It was all sunshine for the Trojans offensively last week as they racked up 524 yards against the Warriors of Hawaii. Sophomore quarterback Matt Barkley threw for 257 yards and tied a school record with five touchdown passes; three to wide receiver Ronald Johnson. Marc Tyler ran hard and fast and finished with 154 yards on just 17 carries, securing Kiffin his first win as Head Coach of USC.

    It wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns in Hawaii as the once vaunted defense of the Trojans gave up 588 yards with 459 of the yards coming at the arms of three different quarterbacks. The Monte Kiffin led defense looked confused, slow and undisciplined as they struggled to keep the Warriors from doing whatever they wanted.

    PREVIEW: The Trojans have so much to prove on the defensive side of the ball. The offense with Barkley, Tyler and Johnson could be the most dangerous trio in the Pac-10. And you can’t forget to add two sensational freshmen to Barkley’s weaponry; running back Dillon Baxter, back from suspension, and receiver Robert Woods, who caught four balls for 46 yards in his debut. But the defense needs to improve on a shaky outing last week. In the defenses defense, the Warriors run an awkward offense built on chaos and speed. The Cavaliers have a more straightforward attack and are predictable when they have the ball.

    The Cavaliers squashed the Richmond Spiders last week by having a balanced running and passing attack. Running back Keith Payne rushed for 114 yards and scored four touchdowns as he returned from his hiatus last season (see quote of the week). Quarterback Marc Verica was an efficient 24 for 35 and threw for 283 yards and one touchdown. But you have to think that Monte Kiffin’s defense won’t allow the Cavalier offense to establish the run with Payne or allow Verica to stand in the pocket without a worry of pressure.

    THE TROJANS KEYS TO VICTORY:

    Force the Cavaliers Into a One-dimensional Team – The most effective way the Trojans can eliminate the Cavaliers’ running game and force them into a pass only team is by scoring early and often. If the Trojans can light up the scoreboard through a multitude of big plays, it will force Virginia to throw the ball in order to keep up the pace. Then, the Trojan defense can pressure the quarterback and take advantage of his mistakes. All the while the Trojan offense can open the playbook and let Barkley, their Heisman hopeful, put on an offensive display.

    Defense Must Attack and Not React – The Trojans’ defense has always been about reckless pursuit of the ball carrier whether it is the opposing team’s quarterback, running back or wide receiver. In the Hawaii game, it looked as if the defense was trying to be in the right place and do the right thing as they waited for the game to come to them. The defense must return to the roots and stop thinking! They need to stop reacting and start attacking using their speed, athletism and ability to bring the wood. And is it too much to ask that a Trojan team can win the turnover battle?

    Stop the Stupid Penalties – Last week, the Trojans looked like the undisciplined Pete Carroll teams of old as they racked up 11 penalties for 100 yards. Kiffin said this team would be a disciplined team that did things “the right way.” Well, this week they have to stop the stupid penalties such as the late hits and offsides.

    QUOTE OF THE WEEK:

    “Keith is a tremendous talent [but] he walked away from the team. He’s come back and he’s trying to ingratiate himself with his teammates. But it’s my personal belief, [if] you walk away, when you come back you’re not going to get the same type of red-carpet treatment that you did when you walked away. These [other] guys stayed and they worked. But, he’s back and he’s working and we’ll see as far as his weight and far as his grades, and if he does those things, then I’m back to all hugs and kisses.” -- Virginia’s coach Mike London.

    TAKE THAT TO THE BANK:

    The Trojans have won their past 12 home openers (well, one of those doesn’t really count now that the NCAA had its say).

    WHO’S IN AND WHO’S OUT:

    USC’s freshman Baxter is back after serving a one-game suspension for violating team rules. Sack specialist Nick Perry should be back in the lineup to disrupt the timing of Virginia’s passing attack.

    Trojan safety Patrick Hall is still suspended for violating team rules

    TELL ME SOMETHING COOL:

    USC has only 73 scholarship players on its 2010 roster, well below the NCAA maximum allowed of 85.

    GAME DETAILS:

    USC v. Virginia (LA Memorial Coliseum) 7:30 p.m. Kickoff

    TAKE SOME PICS AND GET INVOLVED:

    Here is a great way for you to get involved and show your school spirit! Take some pictures at your pre-game party or at the tailgate. Take them of yourself or your friends watching the game at the stadium, the local bar or wherever you choose to watch the game.

    We want you, your friends or your family sporting their USC gear. Send your pictures directly from your phone to isee@nbclosangeles.com. Check back tomorrow to see if your picture made the "team."

    MY PREDICTIONS:

    SEASON PREDICTIONS

    @ HAWAII
    USC 49 - Hawaii 36

    The Trojans win with an offensive explosion.

    Trojans 42 - Warriors 28

     

    vs. Virginia
    Sat., Sept. 11th - 7:30 p.m.

    Virginia keeps it close at half but second half is all Trojans.

    Trojans 34 - Cavaliers 17

     

    @ Minnesota
    Sat., Sept. 18th - 12:30 p.m.

       
     

    @ Washington State
    Sat., Sept. 25th - 12 p.m.

       
     

    vs. Washington
    Sat., Oct. 2nd - 5 p.m.

       
     

    @ Stanford
    Sat., Oct. 9th - 5 p.m.

       
     

    vs. California
    Sat., Oct. 16th - 12:30 p.m.

       
     

    vs. Oregon
    Sat., Oct. 30th - 5 p.m.

       
     

    vs. Arizona State
    Sat., Nov. 6th - 7:30 p.m.

       
     

    @ Arizona
    Sat., Nov. 13th - 5 p.m.

       
     

    @ Oregon State
    Sat., Nov. 20th - 5 p.m.

       
     

    vs. Notre Dame
    Sat., Nov. 27th - 5 p.m.

       
     

    @ UCLA
    Sat., Dec. 4th - TBD