USC Trojans at Hawaii Rainbow Warriors
8:00 PM Pacific | CBS Sports
All-time Series: USC leads 8-0
Last meeting: USC 49, Hawaii 10 in 2012
It’s been 241 days since the Trojans last stepped on the gridiron. Two hundred and forty-one days with the foulest of tastes in their mouths. That’s nearly 35 weeks since the bottoming out of one of the most prominent collapses in USC football history. It’s been eight long months since a 6-7 team schooled Lane Kiffin’s Trojans in the Sun Bowl, plus 51 more days since USC last tasted victory against Arizona State last November.
But they say that hope springs eternal, and in what could be Kiffin’s make or break year at the helm, change has been welcomed. There’s almost an entirely new set of coaches, a new quarterback(s), a new defense and a backfield in the season opener that accounted for just 17 percent of the Trojans’ rushing yards for a year ago. And so these new-look, unproven and vaguely mysterious Trojans will begin their 2013 campaign against an old and all too familiar foe: Norm Chow, and his Hawaii Rainbow Warriors.
Will it be a night full of rainbows and unicorns at Aloha Stadium tonight? Will the Kessler/Wittek era kick into gear with flawless ease? Will USC struggle as they did in the Sun Bowl? Two hundred and forty-one days of counting down to those answers ends tonight at 8 p.m. Pacific.
- Multiple Trojan position groups remain in flux heading into season opener (Reign of Troy)
- USC selects 2013 captains (Reign of Troy)
- Hawaii’s keys to the game (Reign of Troy)
- Trenise Ferreira’s game preview (Bleacher Report)
- Does USC really need more than two weeks to decide on a QB? (Bleacher Report)
- Arrogant Nation’s game preview (Lost Angeles)
- Lane Kiffin is the most to prove in the Pac-12 (ESPN’s Pac-12 Blog)
- Marqise Lee: ‘Get it in his hands…and he’s gone.’ (Grantland)
- Hawaii setting the rotation (Star Advertiser)
When USC has the ball…
With the Trojans breaking in a new signal caller and possibly rotating Max Wittek and Cody Kessler, for Lane Kiffin, it would be a great time for the Trojans to establish a hard-nose ground game to break these young quarterbacks in. Hawaii is also a great defense to do it against.
This Hawaii defense returns eight starters from a unit that surrendered 428 points in just 12 games. Their 35.67 points per game allowed ranked 104th in the FBS last year, and the Warriors gave up a total of 60 touchdowns, including 34 on the ground (only three teams allowed more rushing touchdowns). The strength of the defense is found in the secondary, which ranked 11th nationally in yards allowed per game, allowing just under 183 yards. This is most likely due to how porous their run defense was. The star of the secondary is sophomore free safety Marrell Jackson(6-0, 185) who has great range and puts himself in position to make plays on the ball. Joining Jackson in the secondary will be cornerbacks Dee Maggitt (5-10, 170) and Nequan Phillips (5-9, 185) along with strong safety John Hardy-Tuliau (5-11, 180). This secondary doesn’t have the ability to cover the Trojans’ talented receivers but the question will be can the Trojans’ quarterbacks get the ball out and push it downfield.
What could open up the passing game for Wittek and Kessler is establishing a running game with Justin Davis, Tre Madden, and Ty Issac behind an experienced offensive line, even without Silas Redd. The Warriors are not very sound up front and this showed once they got into league play last year. In four of their nine conference games the defense allowed over 300 yards on the ground. In conference they allowed an average of 237 yards on the ground. The question then becomes what kind of commitment Lane Kiffin shows to the running game to ensure his quarterbacks have some easy passing lanes. For more on the USC offense vs. the Hawaii defense, click here.
USC’s Projected Offensive Starters:
QB Cody Kessler #6
WR Nelson Agholor
LT Chad Wheeler #72
LG Max Tuerk #75
C Marcus Martin #66
RG Aundrey Walker #70
RT Kevin Graf #77
TE Xavier Grimble #86
WR Marqise Lee #9
FB Jahleel Pinner #38
RB Tre Madden #23
Hawaii’s Projected Defensive Starters
DE Tavita Woodard #11
DT Siasau Matagiese #59
DT Moses Samia #91
DE Beau Yap #92
WLB Art Laurel #41
MLB Brenden Daley #56
SLB Jerrol Garcia-Williams #40
SS John Hardy-Tuliau #33
FS Marrell Jackson #10
CB Dee Maggitt #23
CB Ne’quan Phillips #1
When Hawaii has the ball…
The Trojans new-look 5-2 scheme will be presented with the task of slowing down the Rainbow Warriors offense on their home turf at Aloha Stadium. With an offense returning seven starters including a bulk of their offensive line from last season., Hawaii’s offense should more battle-tested than the 49-10 beat down last season. Taylor Graham will take the reins at quarterback, while the Rainbow Warriors return experience on the offensive line. Graham is a transfer from Ohio State and will be getting his first start for Hawaii on Thursday night. Coming out of high school in Illinois in 2010, Graham was the 14th best quarterback in his class according to Rivals. He then spent two years in Columbus, before choosing Hawaii when Urban Meyer came to town. He’s a big prototypical pocket passer who should fit right into Norm Chow’s scheme.
The Trojans have been banged up in the secondary with Su’a Cravens and Dion Bailey among those missing time in fall camp, but Cravens will get the start for the Trojans, while Bailey’s status is uncertain, though he did travel with the team along with Morgan Breslin. Clancy Pendergast came out on Monday to say that the Trojans will rotation the secondary, a reasonable move given that Lane Kiffin listed ten starters for four spots on the season’s first depth chart. For more on the Hawaii offense vs. the USC defense, click here.
Hawaii’s Projected Offensive Starters
ZWR Vasquez Haynes #81
FWR Scott Harding #29
XWR Chris Gant #9
LT Sean Shigematsu #68
LG Kody Afusia #54
C Ben Clarke #71
RG Dave Lefotu #72
RT Mike Milovale #77
QB Taylor Graham #8
TB Harold Moleni #87
RB Aofaga Wily #34
USC’s Projected Defensive Starters:
OLB Devon Kennard #42
DE Leonard Williams #94
NT Antwaun Woods #99
DE George Uko #90
OLB Morgan Breslin #91
MLB Hayes Pullard #10
WLB Lamar Dawson #55
CB Kevon Seymour #13
FS Josh Shaw #26
SS Su’a Cravens #21
CB Anthony Brown #16
- Senior running back Silas Redd will not play tonight for the Trojans, which is news that he broke himself on Monday night. The Penn State transfer didn’t make the trip to Hawaii, and only got onto the field a couple of times in fall camp. In lieu of Redd, the Trojans will start the game with a duo of first-time collegiate running backs: Tre Madden and Justin Davis.
- Dion Bailey, Morgan Breslin and Randall Telfer are among players in the traveling party for USC despite recent minor injuries, as reported by the LA Times’ Gary Klein.
- USC right guard John Martinez had been in a walking boot early this week, but he’s out of it now. With Aundrey Walker slowed with a knee injury, the Trojans could start Hawaii-native Abe Markowitz, who started twice last year.
- Freshman defensive tackle Kennedy Tulimasealii is out a month for Hawaii with a partial MCL tear, as reported by Stephen Tsai of the Star-Advertiser.