Coming off of a 9-4 season last year after beating Boston College in the Emerald Bowl (5-4 in the Pac-10), the USC Trojans are looking to redeem themselves and put the critics to rest, despite not being able to participate in the postseason for the next two years.
With that said, the Trojans' first three games will make or break them.
They face Hawaii at the home stadium of the Warriors, take on Virginia at home in the Coliseum, and the Minnesota Gophers in Minneapolis before opening the Pac-10 conference with a game against Washington State on September 25th in Pullman.
With a complete coaching change and restructure, as well as being on a short leash due to NCAA sanctions that were handed down, the Trojans are looking to have a good year regardless of their situation.
To open the season, the Trojans play Hawaii, and based on their record last year which was 6-7, the Trojans should easily handle the Warriors. The team needs to come out strong, find a rhythm, and play aggressive, smart football.
This game will also be the introduction of a new era of USC football under new head coach, Lane Kiffin.
For the past 10 years, USC has dominated the college football landscape under the guidance of Pete Carroll, so the fans and media are anxious to see how the new look Trojans will perform.
If the Trojans don't handle business against the Warriors, it will be a very long season in Los Angeles. If they get the job done, look for them to continue and build off of the momentum they created in Honolulu.
Nine days after the game in Honolulu, the Trojans will be hosting the Virginia Cavaliers at the Coliseum. This is a must win—a no-brainer, actually—because losing to Virginia would a disaster for the Trojans.
The Cavaliers are coming off a 3-9 season last year, and finished last in the ACC Coastal Division.
The Trojans need to handle business early and often, then let guys from the second team get some reps in. This should be like a practice for the Trojans.
The last non-conference game against Minnesota should be a better one than Virginia but again the Trojans need to come out with a win. The Gophers were 6-7 last year(3-5 in the Big Ten) and lost in the Insight Bowl to Iowa State.
The Trojans quite possibly could have the easiest first three games in the entire Pac-10 and it is crucial that they capitalize on this.
Coming out of the non-conference games 3-0 is critical not only for the coaching staff who will be criticized for every move, but for the players and the university who have been hit hard by the recent NCAA sanctions.
Now more than ever is the time for the USC Trojans to shine, not only to showcase their talent and to show what the new coaching staff has been scheming up, but to show people everywhere that they can overcome adversity and once again be a championship team.