After nearly nine months on the job, cultivating players through initial spring football, the long summer months of conditioning and the grueling three-week Fall Camp, the USC Trojans recognize the close proximity of the opener.
In a week filled with off-the-field controversy, players have been tested to ignore distractions -- something that is nothing new for this program. The Trojans head to the Coliseum winners of their last 15 season openers, 17 of the last 19 as well as having won seven of their nine all-time games in the month of August.
The Trojans are looking to end the month, and begin a new era of fast-paced football, on a strong note against a familiar foe in the Fresno State Bulldogs. There are several instances of these teams and players be familiar with one another. For example, offensive graduate assistant Jaron Fairman was a wide receiver and special teams performer at Fresno State (2003-06), captaining the Bulldogs during the 2006 season.
USC is 28-1-1 versus current Mountain West Conference teams and have beaten Fresno State in each of their past two meetings with the only loss coming in the 1992 Freedom Bowl. Speaking of first-timers, new head coach Steve Sarkisian has a strong reputation to live up to -- each of the last five USC football head coaches have won in their coaching debuts.
What we do know, for certain, is that USC will want to run about 80 plays on offense and plenty of weapons will be on the field. The rotations have been set, and guys up and down the roster recognize that they will have chances to make an impact on the field -- even if not with the first-team offense or defense right away.
The Fresno State Bulldogs come to Los Angeles winners of back-to-back Mountain West Conference titles. The Bulldogs return 16 starters from last season, including preseason All-American candidate safety Derron Smith who intercepted a Cody Kessler pass and returned it to the house for a touchdown during the Las Vegas Bowl.
USC enters this game with confidence, defeating Fresno State 45-20 in impressive fashion during that Vegas Bowl matchup but the Bulldogs will be differently configured from the last time when Derek Carr was leading the attack. The Trojans are led by Cody Kessler, who threw for four touchdowns in the bowl game and led one of the nation's most efficient red-zone offenses last season.
After only averaging 73,000 fans last season, the presence in the Coliseum should be much improved right from the very start given all the increased hype surrounding the No. 15 ranked team in the AP and Coaches Poll. The season has arrived, and nothing would better alleviate the pain of all the off-the-field distractions than an impressive opening performance.
PLAYERS ARE PUMPED
"It's the day befo!!!" #USCfootball— Randall Telfer (@RandallTelfer) August 29, 2014
Kris Albarado (@Albarado19) August 29, 2014
Tomorrow is the start if a fantastic season, hope everyone can make it to the Coliseum tomorrow to watch the start of the Trojan Football— Jordan Austin (@jaustin0056) August 29, 2014
On a better note .. It's almost game time ✌️— George Farmer (@Gfarmer8) August 28, 2014
Can USC handle these distractions heading into the season opener?
This poll is closed
Yes, Still Easy Win
Yes, But Closer Game Then Expected
Yes, But Not Against Stanford
No, Watch Out For Fresno