There has been a lot of talk about the revenge factor that has got Arkansas pumped for tonight's game. Talk about running up the score, going for it on 4th down in 4th qtr. etc. have all been cited by Arkansas fans as the reasons that the Hogs will come out hot and stick it to SC. That's fine; all teams use someone or something to as a motivating factor to get up for the game.
USC has its own motivating factors as the season gets underway. First and most obvious is the loss to Texas in the Rose Bowl. A win tonight goes a long way to putting that disappointing loss behind them. I realize that Coach Carroll and his staff have moved on from it but until the first game is won the players will always have it I the back of their minds so winning is important to them so that they can start a new page in the history book that is USC Football.
SC has been here before, in 2003. Of course things are a bit different now but the scenario is the same. From Scott Wolf:
Carroll is confident partly because of recent history. USC faced similar circumstances three years ago, when new quarterback Matt Leinart led the Trojans into another hostile SEC environment. The offense was basic, but the defense shut out Auburn for a 23-0 victory.
Carroll hopes a similar formula follows tonight. However, some players will touch the ball for the first time in a college game, most notably at tailback, where three freshmen could play, led by starter C.J. Gable of Sylmar.
A number of prognosticators are also predicting an upset tonight. That's fine too, in the world of CFB anything can happen. SC is replacing one of the most productive offenses in CFB history so I can see where some would have some concern. But SC has a ton of talent and Pete Carroll knows how to prepare. Some or criticize his coaching style but it does produce results. He has his pulse on the team and is not afraid to tweak it as he sees fit.
SC will have some bugs to work out and JDB will surly have some butterflies as he takes the helm as #1 starter at QB. Freshman C. J. Gable steps up to fill the shoes as the face of the USC running game. Chauncey Washington is sure to see some action as well. He needs to step up and put the last two years of academic issues behind him and show why he's important to this team. The offensive line needs to hunker down to counter the Arkansas defense. The receivers will do their part no doubt. If Booty can get them ball then it should be a good night for Jarrett and Smith. It's a classic case of establishing the run to set up the pass.
The defense has much to prove this year. Plagued with injuries last year, the front seven is now one of the best units in CFB. The secondary has a lot new faces but they are speedy and should be able to cover the Arkansas receivers. The question will be if we see McFadden in the game. Felix Jones is a fine RB in his own right but McFadden is the workhorse.
Other "intangibles": New OC Gus Malzahn will get his first taste of D-1 football. The question will be if Head Coach Houston Nutt will let him run the show or if they share the play calling duties. JDB's first start will be in a raucous Fayetteville looking to exact some revenge on SC for the beat down that they gave them last year in LA. If he keeps his poise and if the line gives him time he will do fine.
This game will closer than last year no doubt. The SC offense needs to get its "sea legs" quick in their first game. They need to come out and set the tone early and take the Arkansas crowd out of the game. I don't see a blow out like last year but I do think SC wins.