Thursday, September 3, 2009

USC-San Jose State: 5 Things to Watch For

My Coliseum press box days are behind me, but I figure I still have a little armchair QB left in me.

My biggest gripe with USC football during the four years I was there was the lack of exciting football games. My freshman year definitely had its share (opening with 70-17 over Arkansas, finishing with Vince Young's confetti parade and staging the Bush Push in between), but after that point... well, I suppose there was the Chauncey Washington-Justin Forsett duel at Cal.

Truth be told, the most exciting games were USC's losses. Mark Sanchez's failed comeback attempt at Oregon in 2007 was a great game to watch. My most memorable moment as Daily Trojan Sports Editor was standing in the northeast corner of the Coliseum field as Tavita Pritchard connected with Mark Bradford on 4th and 9.

Heartbreaking proof that silence truly is deafening.

Looking at the schedule this year, you'd think the Trojans are due for some barn-burners. Just remember, the same was said two years ago.

At the very least, USC fans will have to wait until the Ohio State game to really get the blood flowing. So until then, here are five things to watch for in Saturday's game:

1. Who gets the early carries?

C.J. Gable started nearly every game for USC last year. It's a good trivia fact because he was hardly the feature back - many games, he'd trot off the field after the first snap or carry.

But Pete Carroll has always been fairly routine when it comes to tailback reps. Last year it was Gable, then Joe McKnight, then Stafon Johnson.

Every tailback will probably get carries Saturday, but expect some "rotational symmetry" in future games.

2. Will Bates be all about balance?

Former offensive coordinators Lane Kiffin and Steve Sarkisian were all about balance - to a point where you wondered what was more important: scoring points or presenting a balanced offensive attack?

If you've run the ball three consecutive times for 15, 14 and 35 yards, respectively, then the next move is obviously to throw the ball.

Balance, people, balance.

New OC Jeremy Bates has an NFL pedigree; and the NFL is a league where balance means very little. You go with what works.

We'll see if he makes USC a true "pro-style" offense.

3. Will everything be kept under wraps?

If you think back to recent non-marquee OOC games, the Trojans have been pretty damn boring. And in almost every case, they had a big-name opponent waiting in the wings.

USC knows it can beat San Jose State straight up, and pretty handily at that. It'll be interesting to see if any new tweaks are unveiled.

Matt Barkley in the shotgun airing it out deep to Brice Butler?

Don't count on it.

4. Can David Ausberry be a threat?

I'm sick of all this "Ausberry has potential" talk. Implied in the word "potential" is the idea that you haven't reached your expected peak.

Ausberry was the talk of camp two years ago, with fans oozing about his impressive practice outings.

Yes, we're talkin' 'bout practice.

Until he shows up in a game, I'm not sold.

5. How hard will Taylor Mays try to get a pick?

The secret's out. Mays even said it himself in a recent LA Times article by Gary Klein: His hands are spotty.

Everyone, including NFL scouts, knows that Mays can hit. Hard.

What we don't know is whether Mays can catch.

It'll be interesting to see if Mays shifts his focus from blowing receivers up to stealing their lunch.

The pick

USC 31, San Jose State 3

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