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First look at the USC Trojans

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The real season opener is now in Tucson

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 27 Holiday Bowl - USC v Iowa Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

After last week’s cancellation, the Arizona Wildcats are gearing up for their season and home opener against USC. It’s not an ideal opening opponent especially with the question marks on defense.

Kickoff is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. MST and will be televised on FOX.

Here’s a first look at the Trojans.

  • 2020 Record: 1-0 (Week one victory over ASU 28-27)
  • Key Offensive Players: Kedon Slovis (QB), Drake London (WR), Amon-Ra St. Brown (WR), Alijah Vera-Tucker (OT)
  • Key Defensive Players: Marlon Tuipulotu (DL), Palaie Gaoteote IV (LB), Talanoa Hufanga (DB), Olaijah Griffin (DB)

USC narrowly escaped their week one matchup against ASU with a win. The Trojans scored two touchdowns in the final three minutes to steal the victory.

This game was really about USC’s inability to secure the football. They finished with four turnovers which is what kept this game close. Two of those turnovers happened in the red-zone.

Quarterback Kedon Slovis simply shredded the Sun Devils’ secondary. He finished the game with 381 passing yards and two touchdowns while completing 40 of 55 passes.

Slovis completed passes to eight different players. The bulk was his 40 completions and 381 yards were to Drake London (8-125), Amon-Ra St. Brown (7-100) and Tyler Vaughns (7-53). Despite Slovis losing last season’s leading receiver, Michael Pittman Jr, to the NFL, he still has plenty of talented options at the position.

The running game was effective but being down two touchdowns late, the game flow required more passing (which they love to do). Vavae Malepeai, Markese Stepp and Stephen Carr combined for 158 yards on 32 rushing attempts.

Per usual, the offensive line has excellent size and talent. The most notable names on the left side in Alijah Vera-Tucker and Andrew Vorhees who are both NFL caliber players. Right tackle Jalen McKenzie started every game in 2019 with most coming at right guard.

Defensively, the Trojans lost their only returning first-team all-conference lineman Jay Tufele who decided to opt out of the season and declare for the NFL draft. With his absence, Marlon Tuipulotu will be expected to anchor the line.

The linebackers will look to replace the production from one of the best to play at USC in John Houston Jr. Palaie Gaoteote IV has the potential to do so as he looks to rebound from an injury riddled 2019.

Also, keep an eye on Drake Jackson who earned second-team honors as a freshman in 2019. Jackson has moved to outside linebacker from defensive line.

The secondary is easily the most talented and deepest group of the defense. It is headlined by safety Talanoa Hufanga and cornerback Olaijah Griffin.

Hufanga is an absolute tackling machine as he entered the season with 141 career tackles in 18 games. He continued this trend by leading USC in tackles with 10 during week one. Griffin started 10 games in 2019 and earned conference honorable mention.

USC had the luxury of playing during week one. Despite not playing their best, they did play and still walked away with a win. They enter this game as heavy road favorites.

If Arizona has any chance in this game, they will need to take care of the ball and string together drives. If the offense isn’t able to sustain drives, that will put too much pressure on the defense and it could get ugly early.