The Utah State Aggies (2-1) visit the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum to play the University of Southern California (USC) Trojans (2-1) at 12:30 p.m. Pacific Time this Saturday (September 21). This clash between the Mountain West Conference and the Pac-12 Conference is the second this season for both squads. In season-openers, the Aggies played at Utah and lost while the Trojans were at Hawaii and won.
This will be the fifth meeting all-time between the two western schools with the men of Troy winning the previous four games. The game will be broadcast on ABC – a big deal for the folks from Logan, Utah, who haven’t been a part of a nationally televised contest since their days in the Pacific Coast Athletic Association (now the Big West).
Utah State is an up-and-coming football school that not too long ago was a doormat of a program. However, last year they won 11 games, losing by a total of five points in their two losses (Wisconsin & BYU). USC is trying to fight its way back into a title contender after a dismal 2012 coupled with an upset loss two weeks ago to Washington State.
Classic O versus D matchup
Essentially, this will be a battle of offense versus defense. The Aggie scoring offense is eighth in the nation but will have to deal with the Trojan defense that is also eighth in the country. Usually when battles like these play out on the field, it’s more often than not a game is decided by the opposite sides of the ball. Meaning, USC’s offense will need to win the game against the Utah State defense.
Speaking of the Aggies defense, they’re not half bad. They’ve allowed less than 19 points a game so far in 2013 and have not allowed a first quarter touchdown in 18 of the past 19 contests played. Utah State is loaded at linebacker which will be key in stopping an iffy Trojan offense.
Kessler versus Keeton
At least that iffy offense now has a starting quarterback to call their own after USC head coach Lane Kiffin couldn’t decide who should play for the first two games of the year. Cody Kessler performed admirably last week with 15 of 17 passes and two touchdowns plus appears capable of being the leader in the huddle. Of course, Kessler will need to get the ball to his wideouts including Heisman Trophy hopeful Marqise Lee. Tailback Tre Madden has three consecutive 100 yard games to start the year and is making people forget that he was third string heading into the season behind injured Silas Redd and D.J. Morgan. True Freshman Justin Davis looks like a talented running back who will be heard from as an excellent backup to Madden. Silas who?
Kessler’s counterpart is the Aggies Chuckie Keeton. One of the premier quarterbacks in the nation, Keeton is the proverbial dual-threat QB capable of almost single-handedly taking over a game offensively. Operating a run-and-shoot type of offense, Keeton has thrown for 12 touchdowns (first in the nation) with only one interception and he also has a running touchdown. Utah State leads the nation in third-down conversions which will test the Trojan defense.
Keeton will be up against a USC defense that is vastly improved under new defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast. He has installed a hybrid 5-2 scheme that is almost constantly applying pressure on the quarterback from every angle – they are second in the nation in sacks. The weakness entering the season for the Trojans is their secondary; but so far, the attack-style defense has covered up any flaw the defense might have.
Different but close paths
This is a critical game for both squads. The Utah State Aggies are looking for that big-time win to catapult their program to the next level. The USC Trojans need to prove they can beat good teams that are high-scoring clubs, since the Pac-12 Conference is full of them.
They will play under sunny skies in Southern California with temperatures in the mid to upper 70s. Utah State is a dangerous team to play and isn’t likely to be blown out by USC or anyone else – as this will be a close gridiron battle all day between the Aggies and Trojans. Final score: USC 27 – Utah State 20.
The following week sees the Aggies once again on the road in California with a quick turnaround, visiting San Jose State for what may be a Mountain West showdown on Friday night September 27. Meanwhile, the Trojans hit the Pac-12 road for a big South Division game against #22 Arizona State at Sun Devil Stadium Saturday night September 28.
Sources: Utah State University, University of Southern California