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USC vs. Arkansas St. Game Preview: Football is back

USC opens the 2015 college football season against one of the favorites to win the Sun Belt Conference. It will be the first meeting all-time between the two schools.

John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

After 252 days off, USC football returns on Saturday at the L.A. Coliseum as the Trojans open the 2015 season against the Arkansas State Red Wolves. It's been quite the offseason for the Trojans as we have seen the loss of two tight ends, a couple of transfers, constant competition in practices, and of course, a little incident at the Salute to Troy event. But we can put all of that behind us as the Trojans will finally get to hit someone besides their own teammates at the Coli this Saturday.

Previewing the Red Wolves

In his first year at helm in 2014, Arkansas State Head Coach Blake Anderson had quite the successful season as he had a winning record (7-6) and brought the Red Wolves to a bowl game for the third straight year. After last year's 7-6 record, Arkansas State finished with a winning record for the fourth straight year, a school record. Dual-threat quarterback Fredi Knighten returns for his senior season and will look to break some of the school records that his offense set last year. Knighten completed 62.7% of his passes while throwing 24 touchdowns and ran for 779 yards on 211 carries and 11 touchdowns. Knighten had at least one passing touchdown in 11 of 13 games last year and at least one rushing touchdown in eight of 13 games. Arkansas State was ranked in the top 20 in scoring and total offense in 2014 and Knighten was a huge reason why. Running back Michael Gordon battled injuries last year but he still rushed for 1,100 yards and 13 touchdowns on an astonishing 6.9 yards per carry. All of Knighten's favorite targets return from last year led by Tres Houston (53 receptions for 685 yards and four touchdowns.) Where the Red Wolves struggled last year was easily defense. They allowed over 420 yards 30 points per game last year and lost three of their top four tacklers from last year and three starting defensive backs to graduation. They do return Ja'Von Rolland-Jones (30 tackles, 12 tackles for a loss and 7.5 sacks) and Xavier Woodson (95 tackles, 9 tackles for a loss and four sacks in '14.) If the Red Wolves want to win the Sun Belt, they are going to have to improve drastically on the defensive side of the ball.

Previewing the Trojans

After a 9-4 season and a narrow victory over Nebraska in last year's Holiday Bowl, the Trojans open the 2015 season at home against Arkansas State, a place where the Trojans went 5-1 in '14. Redshirt senior quarterback Cody Kessler returns and will look to improve on his record-breaking season from a year ago. However, he will be without two key playmakers from a year ago as Nelson Agholor and Javorius "Buck" Allen both left the school a year early and were drafted in the NFL Draft. A deep o-line led by potential top-15 draft pick Max Tuerk does return and will offer plenty of protection for Kessler and the running backs this season. Tre Madden will start at running back against the Red Wolves. Madden is back after missing the 2014 season. On defense, All-American Leonard Williams was taken with the sixth pick in the NFL Draft and is a big loss for the Trojans and will be tough to replace. The Trojans will also be without Hayes Pullard's leadership and starting safety Gerald Bowman, who both graduated. Su'a Cravens will lead the defense and a couple of true freshman will most likely be joining Cravens in the starting lineup on Saturday. Those freshman include Cameron Smith, Iman Marshall, Osa Masina, and Marvell Tell III among others.

Conquest Chronicles will have all the information needed leading up to Saturday night's contest against the Red Wolves as well as a postgame article immediately following the conclusion of the game.