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USC football vs. San Jose State: 5 looming questions for the season opener

USC football quarterback Kedon Slovis.
USC football quarterback Kedon Slovis. / Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
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USC football's 2021 season opens vs. San Jose State on Saturday. We preview the game by asking five burning questions about the matchup.

USC football is back and so is Reign of Troy!

The Trojans will welcome San Jose State to the Coliseum on Saturday, ready to kick off their season against a team that did so last week.

The Spartans took down FCS Southern Utah 45-14 in their opener. USC will get to see what the reigning Mountain West champions are really made of.

USC football questions for the San Jose State game

1. Is San Jose State the scariest G5 USC has faced?

The Spartans don't have that guy like many other Group of Five opponents USC has opened the season with. Instead, they have a capable head coach, a competent quarterback and a solid group of veterans in the trenches. If they challenge the Trojans, it won't be because of star talent. It'll be because the collective triumphed.

That should scare USC immensely.

QB Nick Starkel is a senior with a wealth of experience. He lost top pass catchers from last season, but he has a tight end in Derrick Deese Jr. to target.

This isn't a team to overlook.

2. How will the debutant tackles fare vs. a strong set of DEs?

The Trojans' newly released depth chart features redshirt freshman Courtland Ford at left tackle and redshirt freshman Jonah Monheim at right tackle.

In one way, San Jose State is a less-than-ideal intro for the two young starters. The Spartans boast two first-team All-Mountain West defensive linemen in Cade Hall and Viliami Fehoko. They'll be eager to rattle Kedon Slovis early and often.

On the other hand, this matchup might be a perfect proving ground for Ford and Monheim. Make it through this one, and they'll have proven plenty capable for the challenges going forward.

3. Can USC's DL live up their potential vs. a veteran SJSU OL?

There's a whole lot of warranted optimism around USC's defensive front, despite losing Marlon Tuipulotu to the NFL and Brandon Pili to a season-long injury. Tuli Tuipulotu and Nick Figueroa look capable of setting the tone in the trenches while Drake Jackson and Korey Foreman are potential pass-rushing forces.

The Spartans have 95 career starts returning on the offensive line, including All-Mountain West first-teamer Jack Snyder at left tackle. They're a battle-tested bunch who won't shy away from facing the Trojans.

It's a similar story as on the other side of the trenches. This could be a worrisome test. It could also be a chance for Vic So'oto's unit to prove their worth.

4. Are Kedon Slovis and Drake London national honor contenders?

Slovis and Drake London are on every watch list imaginable for good reason. The quarterback is one of the best in the country and the wide receiver is an absolute stud who is one step away from becoming a household name.

USC needs both to come out of the gate quickly. Quickly setting the stage for Heisman and Biletnikoff Award campaigns would go a long way towards avoiding a typically slow start for the Trojans.

5. Will 2020 be more of the same?

USC fans have been watching the same story unfold for too many years to count at this point. Each season under Clay Helton starts with a mediocre performance, usually against G5 opposition coming off a strong season.

With fans back at the Coliseum for the first time since 2019, it would be refreshing to see the Trojans put in a performance that makes people sit up and start paying attention.

When was the last time USC blew out their season-opening opponent? The Trojans have never covered the spread on opening weekend in the Helton era, for the record. Now would be a good time to start.

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