USC vs. Arkansas State: First Look at the Season Opener


The first game week of the 2015 has officially arrived! USC vs. Arkansas State kicks off at 8:00 p.m. on Saturday night at the Coliseum to start off the brand new season.

RELATED: 10 Best Season Opening Wins in USC Football History

For a quick look at the contest, let’s walk through the match up between the Trojans, who were 9-4 in 2014, and the Red Wolves, who finished 7-6.

The All-Time Series

This will be the first meeting between the Trojans and Red Wolves. USC is 8-0 against teams currently in the Sun Belt, but each one of those eight wins were against the Idaho Vandals, who weren’t actually in the Sun Belt at the time. That means USC will have the opportunity to get their first true victory against the Sun Belt conference this Saturday.

The odds for that coming to pass are pretty good. USC has not lost a season opener since 1997 — and even that was a close loss to No. 5 Florida State.

For Arkansas State, this is only the second time they will face a Pac-12 opponent. Their first game against the conference was a 57-34 loss to Oregon in 2012.

Returning Coaches

Both teams return second-year head coaches, though that is bigger news for Arkansas State than USC.

Blake Anderson will be the first A-State head coach to return for year two since 2010. Hugh Freeze, Gus Malzahn and Bryan Harsin all moved on after their first season.

That’s not to say USC has not had their own coaching carousel over the past few years. Though the Red Wolves had four coaches over four years, the Trojans had four different head coaches in the span of four months in 2013.


USC enters the game ranked No. 8 in the AP poll and No. 10 in the USA Today coaches poll.

Arkansas State is unranked. They were picked to place third in the Sun Belt behind Georgia Southern and Louisiana-Lafayette.

Beware the Dual Threat QB

Dealing with A-State quarterback Fredi Knighten will be the big challenge for USC’s defense.

A first-team All-Sun Belt selection, Knighten is an athletic playmaker who was 25th in the nation in passing yards, 27th in passing touchdowns and rushed for 779 yards with 11 touchdowns in 2015.

The Trojan defense has long been vulnerable to running quarterbacks and 2014 was no different. Boston College quarterback Tyler Murphy rushed for 191 yards and a touchdown against USC last year, while Travis Wilson used his legs to punish the Trojans on the Utes’ game-winning drive.

Protect the Passer

Arkansas State generated 36 sacks last season and they return just about every player involved in that effort.

In wins, the Red Wolves averaged nearly four sacks per game. In losses, that number shrunk to just over one per game.

On the other side of proceedings, USC allowed 32 sacks in 2014. The numbers in wins and losses mirror those of A-State — when the Trojans lost they gave up an average of four and when they won they conceded just under two.

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