…They truly buy into the “Prep Not Hype” motto. USC comes into this season with the top ranking in the country, the Heisman Trophy favorite, multiple preseason All-Americans and a ton of hype. Most of that praise is deserved, but hype is a dangerous thing. Over inflated egos are just waiting for the right underdog to burst their bubble. That is precisely why the coaching staff had “Prep Not Hype” painted onto the practice field and why that motto is a constant refrain among players. Everyone knows how talented the Trojans are. Everyone knows that on paper there are few teams that can challenge them. The Hawaii Warriors are not one of those teams, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t capable of knocking USC off its perch. History tells us that when it comes to USC football, the little guys are the biggest obstacles. Forty-point underdogs can indeed pull off the upset. This Trojan team needs to be most wary of those teams that they might overlook. If they take Hawaii seriously they cannot lose. If they come in expecting the Warriors to just bend over and take it, then they open themselves up to trouble.
…The defense shakes off the rust quickly. Last season the Hawaii game was a high scoring affair that exposed the weaknesses of both defenses. For USC, part of the issue was the decision not to tackle in practices leading up to the season. The idea was to prevent injuries and dealing with scholarship reductions it was entirely understandable. However, the defense clearly struggled with tackling early in the year – a struggle that contributed to the men of Troy’s slow start. This season Kiffin didn’t nix tackling all together, but it was still limited to a point. By now the young squad should have a better sense of the scheme, so the key on defense will be getting back into the groove of hitting and wrapping up efficiently. If they limit missed tackles, the Trojans have the speed and skill to keep the Hawaii offense in check.
…Lane Kiffin defeats Norm Chow in the battle of wits. In the classic movie The Princess Bride, the masked hero proposes a battle of wits: he will lace one of two cups with poison, his opponent will then choose which cup they will each drink from, and the winner will be the one who remains alive after drinking. The brilliance of this battle is that the hero cannot lose. Unbeknownst to his opponent, he had built up a tolerance to the poison; the battle of wits was a ruse. Lane Kiffin is our masked (visored) hero and he needs to remember that this battle is also a ruse. He’s already outwitted everyone, Norm Chow included, by assembling the most talented group of football players in the country. For the vast majority of this season, the Trojans will be stronger, faster, and smarter than their opponents. Kiffin is a brilliant play-caller in his own right, but in a game like this simplicity is key. There is no need to try to outdo Chow. Being overly cute or complex this early in the season could create more problems than it solves. If Kiffin’s offense is smart and balanced, Barkley, Woods, Lee, McNeal and company will easily handle the Warrior defense.