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USC Football 2017: Key matchups for the Trojans against Western Michigan

A few things to keep an eye on when the Trojans take on the Broncos.

NCAA Football: Southern California Spring Game Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

With all the hype that is going into the Trojans’ first game against the Broncos, it isn’t surprising the Trojans are a 94.5% favorite (According to ESPN’s power index). Although the heavy favorite, many questions may be answered in this game. Most importantly, will Sam Darnold live up to the high hopes that have been put on his young shoulders? Many sources do not have the Broncos posed to be as strong as they were last year, losing their starting quarterback, head coach, and their top receiver, the Broncos had many changes to their offense. No matter the pregame predictions, there will still be very interesting matchups on Saturday.

Will the Broncos run wild on Saturday?

An obvious matchup, but this game will be a good indicator on how well the Trojans have grown since last year. Last season the Trojans were ranked 27th in total defense, and 27th in rushing yards allowed per game. Trojans head coach Clay Helton has mentioned how the Trojans defense has more depth than it did last year. That will be tested in the first half, when linebacker Jordan Iosefa will be stepping in for Cameron Smith who is out with a targeting penalty from the Rose Bowl. Iosefa only played in five games last season, but Coach Helton is expecting him to make an immediate impact on this team.

The Broncos Jarvion Franklin was able to boast over 1300 yards and 12 touchdowns last season behind an experienced, and robust offensive line. All of the Broncos offensive linemen have game experience, while three of them are returning starters. Those starters had the 12th ranked rushing offense in the country, averaging 228 yards per game. This is a great chance for the Trojans to go against a highly ranked and experienced offensive line. If the Trojans can nullify the rushing attack right away, the Trojans should have no problem getting an early season win.

Can the Broncos slow down the Trojans diverse offensive attack?

After his impressive debut last season, Sam Darnold proved that he doesn’t mind spreading the ball around. Even though he lost two of his top receivers from last season, Darnold showed no problem in sharing the love. Luckily for Darnold he should have a diverse variety of options to lead the passing attack. Sophmore Daniel Imatorbhebhe should be a large contributor coming from the tight end position. Imatorbhebhe was able to haul in four touchdowns last season, even with limited minutes.

The Trojans also have running back Ronald Jones coming back for his junior season. Jones was able to rush for over 1000 yards and 12 touchdowns. A balanced attack will help to alleviate the pressure from Sam Darnold in this upcoming season. The Broncos will have to try their best to exploit the Trojans young offense, if they hope to have any chance of keeping it a close game.

The Coaching Matchup

After PJ Fleck left to coach the Minnesota Gophers, the Broncos hired Tim Lester as their new head coach. This will be Lester’s first season as a division one head coach, and his first head coaching matchup will not be an easy one. The Broncos are undergoing many changes, and going up against a tough Trojan team. Coach Lester has experience coaching various positions at Syracuse, as well as quarterbacks with Purdue. This will be very helpful especially with the personnel change at the quarterback position. Coach Lester also has playing experience that he can draw from. Coach Lester’s career at Western Michigan included passing for over 11,000 yards and over 80 touchdowns.

On the opposing sideline, Trojan’s Coach Clay Helton might have only 23 games to his head-coaching career, but based on last season alone there is a lot to look forward to. In his brief time, he already has a Rose Bowl win under his belt. The Trojans also look to have a team that might be just as good if not better than they were last year. It will be nothing short of exciting to see the game plan that has been drawn up for either team. After losing key players on both sides fans are interested in seeing who the rising stars from each team will be.