We are two days from game day! Can you feel it Trojan fans?!
The USC Trojans welcome the UNLV Rebels out of the Mountain West to kickoff the season and to begin a brutal September schedule. The Trojans will look to avoid the same issue they had in last season’s opener when they got a scare from Western Michigan. What does Clay Helton’s team have to do to avoid that same fate? Here are some keys to the game.
Contain the Run
UNLV has an explosive 1-2 punch on the ground in quarterback Armani Rogers and running back Lexington Thomas. Both were the Rebels leading rushers last season and can give teams fits. UNLV averaged 5.5 yards per carry and rushed for 240 yards a game. Potentially they could be one of the best in nation. USC struggled in some instances against the run last season, giving up 158.3 yards per game. The Trojans defense must contain UNLV’s ground attack and force Rogers to beat them with his arm. They could have their hands full with the Mountain West leading rusher, but With the expected return of senior linebacker Porter Gustin and potently some improved play on the defensive line, the USC defense should have a better time against the run.
Establish The Run Game
Staying on the topic of the ground game, USC has to take advantage of a UNLV defense that was pretty bad against the run. Aca’Cedric Ware, Vavae Malepeai, and Stephen Carr are all listed as co-starters on the Trojans depth chart, however expect them to see a good amount of carries this Saturday. UNLV defense given up 238 yards a game on the ground and will be breaking in a new defensive coordinator to the program. If anything this should be a game where USC shouldn’t have a hard time on the ground against the Rebels.
Take What You Can Get
If you haven’t heard by now, true freshman quarterback J.T. Daniels will be under center for USC. Daniels has looked pretty good in the inter-squad scrimmages, however this is an actual game against another opponent. Trojan fans will want to see the explosive play against UNLV, but it’s better to ease Daniels into the offense. USC has to play Stanford the next week, last thing they really want to do is show unnecessarily show their hand if they don’t have to. If they can just play their game and take what they can get then there’s no reason why the Trojans have any issues with the Rebels.
Rotation, Rotation, Rotation
USC finally has depth on defense at multiple positions. While Clancy Pendergast isn’t huge on that, this might be the best game to keep fresh bodies in there. Especially against a UNLV team who loves to run. Again USC has Stanford next week and Texas the week after, so working the rotations for a tune up against UNLV might be best.
Don’t Under Estimate
Yes UNLV went 5-7 last season and lost to Howard to open the year, but don’t under estimate the Rebels here. USC has a knack of not handling business against inferior teams and Rebel stars Rogers and Thomas are no slouches. USC has to put UNLV away to send a message.