September 7, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans head coach Lane Kiffin watches game action against the Washington State Cougars during the second half at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

USC Morning Links: Kiffin's Adjustments, Utah State Praises Trojan Defense and Other Links

Will Lane Kiffin’s Adjustments Work Against Top Tier Competition?
(Kyle Kensing |  Bleacher Report)

Saturday, USC played like a team that either shut out the voluminous criticism surrounding the program and head coach Lane Kiffin throughout the week—or one that used the potential distraction as motivation. Kiffin’s adjustments after an ugly loss to Washington State resulted in an emphatic, 35-7 rout of Boston College. Like the Trojans’ first two opponents, however, BC is a team coming off an especially poor 2012. The Eagles finished 2-10, and are rebuilding under first-year head coach Steve Addazio. Their record brings the combined 2012 mark of USC opponents this season to 9-28. While BC and Washington State are improved from their 2012 incarnations, the Trojans’ Week 4 tilt against Utah State should be the most insightful look at this USC team the nation’s had yet.

Aggies hoping to establish running game against Trojans
(Wade Denniston | Logan Herald Journal)

“We’re going to have to play very efficiently on offense, take care of the football and find a way to run the ball, because three teams haven’t yet,” USU head coach Matt Wells said Monday during his weekly press conference. “SC is everything that you’ve always thought about them, everything I’ve known about them as a kid,” Wells said. “They’re extremely talented on defense. We’ve been watching tape for almost a day now and I don’t think we’ve made a first down yet. They are really, really good up front and they’ve got some talented safeties.”

What to Expect From The Best of the Mountain West
(Evan Budrovich | Conquest Chronicles)

Utah State once again received votes in this week’s USAToday coaches’ poll as it garnered five votes to rank tied for 39th in the nation. That being said, the tilt with USC on Saturday is rather momentous for the entire Utah State program because they will play their first nationally televised game on ABC since Oct. 7, 1978 when it faced BYU. Dating back to the 2011 season, Utah State has won eight of its last 11 road games. In that process, Utah State has also won 18 of its last 22 games, which is USU’s best stretch since going 18-2-1 during the 1960-61 seasons. Their record has almost remained perfect however; dropping close contests to FBS powerhouses No. 22 Wisconsin (16-14) on a last-second missed FG, BYU (6-3) from last year, and Pac-12 foe Utah (30-26) this season.

Breaking Down Key Changes Clancy Pendergast Has Brought to Defense
(Rich McMahan |Bleacher Report)

Pendergast’s scheme is designed to pressure from the outside in order to force things to the middle. His charges are doing just that, which helps explain why they are also ranked second overall in rushing defense, allowing a paltry 43.7 yards a game. But pressure is nothing without penetration. USC is also one of the best in the game in that area, as indicated by its sixth-place position in tackles for loss, averaging over nine per game. You want more evidence of that penetration? The Trojans are tied for third in the nation in sacks, averaging four in that category.

Stopping the run a priority for Aggies
(Kyle Goon| Salt Lake Tribune)

After watching film on him this week, count Utah State as believers. “[Madden] runs extremely hard – he’s just athletic, honestly,” senior linebacker Jake Doughty said. “He can juke, and when he needs to, he gets his shoulder down and can hit people pretty good.” The fleet-footed running back is the main weapon for a USC team that loves to get yards on the ground. In the first few games as the Trojans were sorting out their passing offense, they pounded the rock with Madden. The team averages 196 rushing yards per game, and the run has carried them when their passing hasn’t been as reliable.

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