USC hopes to begin its journey toward a national championship on Saturday with an emphatic victory over Hawaii. The Trojans are huge favorites heading into the game, but there are always opening-game jitters to work through that should keep them on their toes.
With their postseason ban lifted, the Trojans have become a popular pick to run the table. They open the season ranked first in the AP Top 25 poll and third in the USA Today poll, and they have more than enough talent to back up the hype.
Let's take a look at all the important viewing and listening information for Saturday's clash as well as some things to watch for as USC and Hawaii get the season underway.
Where: Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, Calif.
When: Saturday, Sept. 1 at 7:30 p.m. ET
Listen: KKEA 1420 AM (Hawaii) or KMPC 1540 AM (USC)
Live Stream Audio: ESPN 1420 AM
Betting Line: USC -40 (Vegas Insider)
Injury Report (via USA Today)
Hawaii: Samson Anguay (questionable, knee) and Desmond Dean (questionable, undisclosed)
USC: Robert Woods (probable, ankle)
Key Storyline: How will USC deal with the pressure?
On paper, it would appear USC should have no problem cruising to an easy victory against an overmatched Hawaii squad. But dealing with high expectations has a tendency to throw a wrench in those plans, especially early in the season.
The Trojans have spent the past couple of months listening to the media talk about how great they are and the likelihood of a national title. It's human nature to soak up that respect, but it's also crucial the players don't let it go to their heads.
Don't be surprised if USC gets off to a slow start in the first quarter, which would serve as a wake-up call, before finally pulling away right before halftime.
Top 25 Implications
Since the Trojans are already ranked highly in both key polls, they simply have to worry about staying there for the next handful of months. That's a much more favorable position than having to work up the ladder like other contenders.
As always, teams near the top don't only want to win games, but win big. Anything less than a four-touchdown victory over the Warriors would be a disappointment. USC needs to make an early statement to the voters.
What They Are Saying
USC defender T.J. McDonald knows there's still a lot of work left to get done in the coming months, but he's pleased with where the Trojans stand, according to Yahoo! Sports:
"The ranking doesn’t mean we've done anything as a team," said senior safety T.J. McDonald. "But it’s good to see we’re back where we’re supposed to be."
Hawaii Player To Watch: Billy Ray Stutzmann
Hawaii head coach Norm Chow is a former USC offensive coordinator and will hope to use his prowess on that side of the ball to keep up with the Trojans, at least for awhile. One of the biggest weapons he has to work with is Stutzmann.
The junior wide receiver will take over as the top target in the passing game after Royce Pollard moved on to the NFL. If the Warriors offense wants to return to its previous heights, Stutzmann and quarterback Sean Schroeder will need to lead the way.
Since Hawaii figures to be playing from behind for a vast majority of the game, Stutzmann should post some solid numbers to start his third season.
USC Player To Watch: Robert Woods
It will be difficult for Woods to improve on the eye-popping numbers he put up last season. The explosive wide receiver caught 111 passes for nearly 1,300 yards and 15 touchdowns, which accounted for more than a third of the team's passing TDs.
That type of production will obviously make him the focal point of every defensive game plan, so he should expect to see double or triple coverage on virtually every play. The junior has too much talent to get completely shut down, though.
Ultimately, Woods has an athletic advantage over the Warrior defensive backs. Look for him to reach the end zone a couple of times in the opener.
Key Matchup: Matt Barkley vs. Hawaii secondary
Barkley had the opportunity to make the NFL leap but decided to return to USC with hopes of chasing down a championship instead. Only time will tell if he made the right call, but he doesn't seem to have any regrets.
Given his wide array of options in the passing game, he should have no trouble putting up monster numbers on Saturday. All Hawaii can do is avoid giving up big plays to stop the Trojans from running up the score right away.
All signs point to another impressive season for Barkley. He's a man on a mission, and the Warriors will be the first ones to feel his wrath.
USC 49, Hawaii 7