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Trojans Fight On Tonight

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Everyone knows what’s at stake for the USC Trojans. A Rose Bowl… Oh wait. NCAA sanctions eliminated them from that. Playing for Pete… Oh wait. He’s chased the NFL dream in Seattle. Well then it appears that pride is the only thing at stake for the Trojans this season. How, um, exciting.

The Trojans will herald the first day of college football with the Hawaii Warriors on the islands before a nationwide audience intrigued by what the post-NCAA sanctioned team with a new coaching staff will look like. Head coach Lane Kiffin does have a lot of prove after disastrous stints at the Oakland Raiders in the NFL for 20 games and the Tennessee Volunteers for a season. While Kiffin was the offensive coordinator in the middle of USC’s heyday, he still has to prove that he can be the head guy in charge of making all the decisions.

And there’s the question of the offense and sophomore quarterback Matt Barkley who was treated with kid gloves by Pete Carroll last year. While Barkley wasn’t a disaster by any stretch of the imagination, the offense did sputter down the stretch averaging 20.7 points in their final six games. But with the experience of the first year behind him he should be able to open the playbook more and improve on his 15-14 touchdown-to-interception ratio from last season.

The player to watch on offense is tailback junior Mark Tyler who won a starting job in fall camp over senior Allen Bradford. But backed with also C.J. Gable and freshman Dillon Baxter who is suspended for tonight’s game for passing the Dutch as it were, the Trojans shouldn’t see any drop off in their rushing game.

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But the biggest question for the Trojans this season will be their depth in other positions. Having only 74 scholarship players thanks to defections after the NCAA sanctions were handed down, it should come to rear its ugly head down the stretch of the season in November in the middle of the Pac-10 schedule. Because of depth issues, Kiffin limited contact during fall practice and scrimmages so it should be intriguing to watch how intense and prepared the Trojans are coming out of the gate tonight.

As for tonight’s game, the Trojans should really have no problems. The Warriors lost all of their linebackers from last season to graduation, and their offensive line is just plain awful. However, Barkley and the passing offense should get a good test with a secondary that features all returning starters and safety Spencer Smith whose six interceptions last season ranked 11th nationally.

This will not be the 63-17 stomping of 2005, which actually now never happened thanks to the NCAA. And as 21 ½ point favorites, I wouldn’t be entirely surprised if the Trojans don’t cover the spread. But the Trojans have the horses to give Lane Kiffin his first win as USC head coach.

Here’s an interesting note about tonight’s game. USC has four players from Hawaii while Hawaii has 33 players from California. Bite on that.

USC defeats Hawaii 34-10.

INJURY/STATUS UPDATES

Possible: TB Allen Bradford (knee), OG Butch Lewis (groin), OG Khaled Holmes (neck), DE Nick Perry (ankle), WR Scott Stephens (knee)

Questionable: CB T.J. Bryant (cheekbone), S Drew McAllister (hip), S-CB Demetrius Wright (NCAA Clearinghouse), FB Soma Vainuku (NCAA Clearinghouse)

Out: TB Dillon Baxter (suspended), LB Marquis Simmons (appendix), TE Xavier Grimble (ankle), S Patrick Hall (knee), TB D.J. Morgan (knee), LB Hayes Pullard (knee), NT Christian Tupou (knee), WR Thearon Collier (NCAA transfer rule)

TV: ESPN. Radio: AM 710 KSPN. 5:00 pm