USC vs. Fresno State Gameday Guide: Matchups, lineups, links, odds and more

PASADENA, CALIFORNIA - NOVEMBER 17: JT Daniels #18 of the USC Trojans reacts after a stop on third down by the UCLA Bruins defense during the first half at Rose Bowl on November 17, 2018 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
PASADENA, CALIFORNIA - NOVEMBER 17: JT Daniels #18 of the USC Trojans reacts after a stop on third down by the UCLA Bruins defense during the first half at Rose Bowl on November 17, 2018 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /

USC vs. Fresno State

LA Coliseum | Los Angeles, CA7:30 p.m. Pacific | ESPNAll-time series: USC leads 3-1-0Last meeting: USC 52, Fresno State 13 in 2014

USC vs. Fresno State has produced fireworks in the past, but the Trojans will be looking for more of 2014 than 2005 when they welcome the Bulldogs to the Coliseum on Saturday night.

The season opener is a chance for renewal for USC. After a 5-7 season in 2018, the Trojans will be debuting a new offense and a remade coaching staff at the newly-renovated Coliseum.

On the opposite sideline, Jeff Tedford has had to do some rebuilding of his own. Gone from last year’s Mountain West champion defense are four of the top five tacklers, including all three starting linebackers and All-Mountain West defensive back Tank Kelly. On offense, Fresno State loses four of five starting offensive lineman as well as their leading receiver and passer, plus offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer.

That means this year’s matchup comes with some huge unknowns for both side.

Will USC be able to bounce back from the disappointment of last year? Will Fresno State be able to hold on to their positive momentum and reload?

All will be learned on Saturday night under the lights.

Gameday Links:

Preview Podcast:

Join co-hosts Michael Castillo and Alicia de Artola as they breakdown the players, matchups and themes to know ahead of USC vs. Fresno State.

LISTEN: USC vs. Fresno State Preview

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USC Injury Report:

  • OUT:
    • CB Max Williams
    • LB Jordan Iosefa
    • LB Abdul-Malik McClain
    • LB Solomon Tuliaupupu
    • LB Eli’jah Winston
    • DL Jacob Lichtenstein
    • TE Ethan Rae
    • WR Kyle Ford
    • WR Bru McCoy

Fresno State Injury Report:

  • OUT:
    • DE Kwami Jones
    • RB Jordan Mims
    • RB Romello Harris
    • RB Peyton Dixon

When USC has the ball…

The Trojans will look to hit the ground running with the new Air Raid offense against what was one of the top defenses in the nation, let alone the Group of Five.

Fortunately for USC, the Bulldogs are breaking in new starters across the linebacker corps and in the secondary. Middle linebacker Mykal Walker was a playmaker at defensive end in 2018, but he needs to prove his worth in the center of the defense. Meanwhile, safety Juju Hughes and Jaron Bryant have a tall task putting a stop to USC’s passing game.

That’s because JT Daniels has a stacked wide receiver corps to utilize against that defense.

The bigger question marks arise up front, where the Trojan offensive line struggled in just about all aspects in 2018. They have a new offensive line coach, a new center and hopefully a new attitude to drive them this season.

If USC wants to have an effective running attack, and thus a semi-balanced offense, against a stout Fresno State front, the line will have to raise their level.

Fresno State Defense

  • DE #31 Andrew Wright, Jr.
  • DT #98 Keiti Iakopo, Sr.
  • DT #90 Kevin Atkins, Jr.
  • DE #90 Isaiah Johnson, So.
  • LB #29 Justin Rice, RS-Jr.
  • LB #3 Mykal Walker, Sr.
  • LB #15 Arron Mosby, Jr.
  • CB #2 Chris Gaston, So.
  • SS #23 Juju Hughes, Sr.
  • FS #4 Wylan Free, So.
  • CB #14 Jaron Bryant, Sr.

USC Offense

  • LT #73 Austin Jackson, Jr.
  • LG #75 Alijah Vera-Tucker, RS-So.
  • C #62 Brett Neilon, RS-So.
  • RG #70 Jalen McKenzie, RS-So.
  • RT #53 Drew Richmond, RS-Sr.
  • TE #84 Erik Krommenhoek, Jr.
  • X #6 Michael Pittman, Sr.
  • A #1 Velus Jones, RS-Jr.
  • Y #8 Amon-Ra St. Brown, So.
  • Z #21 Tyler Vaughns, RS-Jr.
  • RB #29 Vavae Malepeai, RS-Jr.
  • QB #18 JT Daniels, So.

When Fresno  State has the ball…

USC’s defensive front couldn’t have picked a better situation to get their feet wet against in 2019. Despite tons of potential in their ranks, the defensive line was a disappointment last year while breaking in an array of new starters. This time around, they will look to take a step forward thanks to more experience and a simplified scheme.

Moving back, the rebuilt Trojan secondary may catch a break by facing a rebuilt Bulldog passing attack. New quarterback Jorge Reyna has been in the Fresno State system for three years and did perform well at the junior college level, but this will be his first start at the major college football level.

USC can feel confident in the talent level of their defensive backs. Cornerback Olaijah Griffin and Isaac Taylor-Stuart, safeties Talanoa Hufanga and Isaiah Pola-Mao, and nickelback Greg Johnson were all Top 150 recruits in high school, but their own experience level is exceedingly low.

Fresno State Offense

  • LT #72 Dontae Bull, So.
  • LG #52 Netane Muti, Jr.
  • C #59 Matt Smith, Jr.
  • RG #66 Quireo Woodley, RS-So.
  • RT #65 Syrus Tuitele, Jr.
  • TE #16 Jared Rice, Sr.
  • WR #1 Keric Wheatfall, Jr.
  • WR #8 Chris Coleman, So
  • WR #27 Zane Pope, So.
  • RB #20 Ronnie Rivers, Jr.
  • QB #11 Jorge Reyna, Sr.

USC Defense

  • DE #89 Christian Rector, RS-Sr.
  • DT #78 Jay Tufele, RS-So.
  • NT #51 Marlon Tuipulotu, RS-So.
  • DE #99 Drake Jackson, Fr.
  • LB #31 Hunter Echols, RS-So.
  • LB #1 Palaie Gaoteote, So.
  • LB #10 John Houston, RS-Sr.
  • CB #2 Olaijah Griffin, So.
  • FS #21 Isaiah Pola-Mao, RS-So.
  • SS #15 Talanoa Hufanga, So.
  • NK #9 Greg Johnson, RS-So.
  • CB #6 Isaac Taylor-Stuart, RS-Fr.

Odds (USC -14):

USC is a two-touchdown favorite over Fresno State, per BetOnline.Ag. The over/under for the game is 51 points.