Utah State Non-Conference Preview: USC Trojans

Harry How

Utah State travels down to Southern California to take on USC in a big non-conference tilt for the Aggies on Sept. 21.

The Utah State Aggies go on the road in the non-conference season and will take on the USC Trojans on the road. The game kicks off on Saturday Sept. 21, but the game time and television announcement will be announced about two weeks before kick off.

Coach: Lane Kiffin (25-13; three seasons)

2012 record: (7-6) (5-4)

2012 season in review: After starting the 2012 season as a prohibitive favorite for the national championship, USC plummeted to the depths of college football with a 7-6 record, which included a humiliating 21-7 loss to Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl. The Trojans were the first preseason no. 1 team to ever lose six games in that same season, and as a result of such a disappointing effort, Kiffin is now on the hot seat for 2013. Depth was the team's primary concern heading into last fall, and once the injury bug hit a few players, USC simply never recovered -- most notably after losing star QB Matt Barkley to a shoulder injury in a defeat at the hands of rival UCLA.

Returning Offensive Starters: 7

Returning Defensive Starters: 7

Key Returning Starters: WR Marqise Lee (All-American, Biletnikoff Award winner), DE Morgan Breslin (pre-season All-Pac-12), S Dion Bailey

2013 Strengths: Regardless of who's throwing the ball (Max Wittek, Cody Kessler or Max Browne), they'll have Lee on the receiving end, so it's likely the team will see solid results from the passing game. In addition, the offensive line returns four of five starters, which means a bit more ramp for whichever of those three signal-callers gets the nod to stat. Defensively, the Trojans will be relying on the front line to generate pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Breslin and Leonard Williams should be a two-headed monster on either side of the line, and could wreak havoc on offensive gameplans.

2013 Weaknesses: The quarterback situation might be settled by the fourth week of the season for USC, but as of now that position is not yet settled. USC was 72nd in the country in rushing offensive last year, and that's unlikely to change unless Silas Redd steps up his game and becomes a bigger factor (only partially based on his lack of carries). While the defensive line is a strength, the rest of that group is full of question marks. Bailey played linebacker the last two years and is now headed back to safety, where it's unknown how well he can lead the secondary. Corners and safeties were both soft spots in the defense last year, and project to be weak again, until proven otherwise.

For more information on the USC Trojans, check out SB Nation blog's Conquest Chronicles and Pacific Takes.

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