Aug 29, 2013; Honolulu, HI, USA; Southern California Trojans quarterback Cody Kessler (6) takes the snap against the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors at Aloha Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

USC Football: Five Things To Watch For - Washington State

1) QB battle

It explains itself. Neither Cody Kessler nor Max Wittek did much to secure the starting job in the game against Hawaii. Kiffin has chosen a starter (reportedly Kessler) but considering how he named a starter before Thursday and still played both QBS, the battle still appears open. This battle cannot go on much longer if the Trojans want to build momentum going into the tougher part of the schedule, so look for one of the two QBs to establish themselves as the starter.

2) Connor Halliday

The Washington State quarterback threw 65 times against Auburn, racking up 344 yards. However, he also tossed three interceptions in the loss. Those numbers are both concerning and reassuring for the Trojan defense. Halliday and the Cougars will provide a stiffer test for the already thin secondary. However, the defense came away with four interceptions against Hawaii. This is a match up that will reveal much more about the new-look defense than what we saw against Hawaii.

3) Marqise Lee

Lee had two major drops and a fumble against Hawaii. In what was a largely mediocre game for the Trojan offense, Lee had the potential to increase the winning margin by at least two touchdowns. Those points didn’t matter against Hawaii, but they could against a team like Washington State in what is looking more and more like a trap game. Lee was touted as a Heisman candidate coming into this season, he’ll get a pass for last week but can’t afford another game with similar issues.

4) Penalties

The Trojans had nine penalties for 75 yards in the season opener, continuing the trend from last season when USC was 99th in the country in penalties. Penalties are the mark of an undisciplined team and unless USC can limit them it could be a long season. It is understandable for the players to not be as sharp on the injury front for the first game in the season, but Kiffin will no doubt hope to see his team reduce the number of flags dramatically as they move into week two.

5) Adjustments

Hawaii exposed some big concerns in the offense and the offensive line specifically. If Mike Summers is the level of coach he’s been touted as then there should be a certain amount of correction on that front. Similarly, Clay Helton will be called upon to get more out of his quarterbacks while Lane Kiffin must adjust the way he calls plays to suit the unit as a whole.

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Tags: Cody Kessler Connor Halliday Marqise Lee Max Wittek USC Trojans

  • Trojan_SD

    For me, seeing how the defense reacts to the “Air Raid” will be very telling.
    Clancy’s scheme seems to rely heavily on bringing extreme pressure upon the QB and forcing hurried throws and turnovers. It will be interesting to see how effective this will be against Halliday, who will throw quickly. I expect coach P. will have some clever tricks up his sleeve, but I think the secondary will be thoroughly tested. Hopefully the safeties can help out the struggling corner ranks.

    Cal held the Cougs to 17 last year with Clancy’s defense. WSU seems improved, but Clancy also has better athletes at his disposal, at least in the front seven and in the safeties. Hopefully we’re able to contain the Cougs to less than three touchdowns as well, and our offense steps up this game.

    • Michael Castillo

      That’s a great point. 17 points with lesser talent and a WSU team that had senior leadership could be a telling sign. With Halliday as susceptible to mistakes as he is, it’s going to be a game where the defense can force Halliday to prove that he’s improving and not just get backed into a corner. WSU can surprise SC, there’s no denying that, especially with how lethargic the offense has been over the last five games dating back to last year.

      I think three downs is a good high water mark. That’s the most rope you want to give WSU. If the defense plays like they did last week (yes, it was Hawaii), then three TDs will be a lot.