September 7, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans wide receiver Marqise Lee (9) runs the ball against the defense of Washington State Cougars cornerback Damante Horton (6) during the second half at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Cody Kessler’s confidence. Lane Kiffin got off to a quicker start than normal this week by naming Kessler the permanent starting quarterback on Monday. That means Kessler gets more snaps in practice to improve his game and doesn’t have to look over his shoulder wondering if the next mistake means he’ll get pulled from the game. That also means that there can be no more excuses. Kessler told reporters after practice on Tuesday that he has a “new sense of confidence” now that he’s secured the starter’s job. Trojan fans will hope that the confidence shows itself on the field as Kessler looks to build on two mediocre starts thus far.
BC’s running game. Boston College’s Andre Williams is a one-man wrecking crew, logging 204 yards on 31 carries in the Eagles’ 24-10 win over Wake Forest. This week, however, he comes up against the #1 rush defense in the nation this season. The USC defense has risen to the test presented to them each week thus far. They have surrendered a total of 13 offensive points and shut down both Hawaii’s pro-style and Washington State’s Air Raid. USC has yet to be tested with a consistent running game however. The Trojans limited Hawaii and Washinton State to 30 rushing yards combined, but Williams will present a much tougher challenge.
Tre Madden’s carries. Speaking of running games, USC’s has gotten off to a bright start this season behind the strong running of Madden. With 100+ yards in both games, Madden has been by far USC’s most potent offensive weapon. His carries spiked exponentially against Washington State, but that was by necessity — as the Trojans struggled to get their ineffective passing game going, Madden was called upon to carry the offense which resulted in 31 carries and a worn-down running back. Justin Davis ran the ball well in the second half against Hawaii, but was nowhere to be found against the Cougars. He saw just two carries for two yards.
The Coliseum crowd. The much publicized “Fire Kiffin” chants speak for themselves, but the booing is a real concern for the Trojans as they return the Coliseum this week. Kiffin joked about learning how to play on the road, but Kessler was more direct: “It gives the other team momentum when the fans boo you.” Fans will argue that they weren’t booing the players. By and large, the play calling and Kiffin were the objects of fan abuse. Having said that, Kessler’s point stands. The negativity in the Coliseum gives the other team a boost and the complete reversal of home-field advantage could be a major factor if the Trojan offense doesn’t get off to a strong start on Saturday.
Marqise Lee’s positive impact. Kiffin felt the need to have a conversation about playing within himself as it has become increasingly clear that the Trojan wide out “is pushing himself a little too much, trying a bit too hard” to make an impact. In fact, Lee’s impact so far has been more positive than negative. He has turned the ball over, he has dropped passes in key situations and he has cost the team yards and first downs by going for the home run instead of taking what is there. The good news is that Lee is a supreme talent and it is a much better problem to have a player who tries too hard than one who doesn’t care.