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USC vs. Idaho: First Look at the Vandals

By Hank Shaw
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After a big 55-6 over Arkansas State, this upcoming Saturday features a USC vs. Idaho game that the Trojans are heavy favorites in before opening the Pac-12 slate next week against Stanford.

RELATED: 5 Things We Learned From USC in Week 1 and What it Means for Idaho

Despite both being Sun Belt teams, Idaho is not in the class of Arkansas State. The Vandals have won just four games in the last three seasons and current head coach Paul Petrino is a lowly 2-21 since taking over prior to the 2013 season.

Needless to say, USC’s schedule is not getting strength bump on Saturday. However, Idaho will pose some unique challenges and has a couple of interesting storylines to watch. Let’s get to know the Vandals.

Idaho lost their opener to Ohio

Petrino’s bunch opened the 2015 season on Thursday against Ohio University, falling victim in a 45-28 loss.

The game was highlighted by the efficiency in which the Bobcats moved the ball on Idaho, as they had three 70-plus yard scoring drives in the first half alone. That’s noteworthy, as Ohio was abysmal on offense last season, ranked 120th in offensive FEI by Football Outsiders.

Idaho also gave up 7.76 yards per play, which was the fourth-most allowed under Petrino.

The best kicker in America no one is talking about

If you’ve followed college football in the last couple of years, you probably know how accurate and NFL-ready Florida State kicker Roberto Aguayo is. And you might know that Utah’s Tom Hackett is an incredibly fun to watch punter.

But did you know that Idaho’s Austin Rehkow has the biggest leg in America?

The junior is the NCAA’s current leader in career punting average with a whopping 47.8 yard average. As a freshman in 2013, he had an incredible 34 punts of more than 50 yards. Seriously, 34.

How is he as a placekicker, you ask? He’s had his ups and downs in college, but in 2012 while as a high school senior, Rehkow hit a 67-yard field goal as time expired to send a game into overtime. Here’s video if you’re doubting it.

He’s basically everything you loved about USC’s only All-American punter Tom Malone and a little bit more. And considering that Idaho are tasked with the challenge of facing a good USC defense, we might be seeing a lot of Rehkow on Saturday night.

Vandals have their share of drama

USC has had to deal with a lot the last few seasons, in terms of both on-field and off-the-field distractions. But Idaho can relate, as drama follows around Paul Petrino just as much as it does his brother Bobby.

Just last month, Petrino berated a reporter from the Moscow-Pullman Daily News and kicked the media out of practice for writing a story that he deemed to be negative.

Oct 12, 2013; Jonesboro, AR, USA; Idaho Vandals head coach Paul Petrino reacts to a call in the game against the Arkansas State Red Wolves at ASU Stadium. Arkansas State defeated Idaho 48-24. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

That came almost two years after he had to be pulled away from Mike Leach in a verbal exchange after a game against Washington State.

On top of that, the Vandals were banned from going to a bowl in 2014 as a result of the university struggling to graduate football players.

The team failed to reach the NCAA standards for academic progress rate, which generated an automatic postseason ban. This year however, Idaho is good to go if they can find a way to win six games.

But that’s incredibly difficult when the program’s entire budget is roughly equivalent to Steve Sarkisian’s salary at USC, or as Dennis Dodd described in 2014, “60 percent of Nick Saban’s.”

That leaves Idaho in a spot where they’re a Pacific Northwest school playing in a conference with Southern roots, and continuous whispers of a potential move down to the FCS.

For now though, the Vandals keep on truckin’ and will head to the Coliseum to play USC on Saturday night. They might be the most overmatched team to play the Trojans in years, but for a team struggling financially, they’ll gladly take the paycheck that Pat Haden and company hand over.

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