Who will score the 1st USC touchdown?
Garry Paskwietz: I’ll go with tight end Randall Telfer. The Trojans go a long drive led by Buck Allen and when they get inside the red zone Cody Kessler will hit Telfer for the opening score.
Johnny Curren: Nelson Agholor. Kessler finds his favorite target early to get the party started.
Greg Katz: Running back Javorius Allen will rush for the first touchdown from inside the 3-yard line, and Steve Sarkisian will be making a statement with Allen’s run that the Trojans can physically impose their will at or near the opponent’s goal line.
Who was your fall camp MVP?
GP: Hayes Pullard. One of the reasons there is so much optimism for the USC defense heading into the season is because Pullard has been the consistent presence in the middle helping to install the new scheme and making sure everybody is on the same page.
JC: Cody KessIer. I was really impressed with the way that Kessler picked right up where he left off after a strong spring, growing more and more in command of Steve Sarkisian’s offense throughout fall camp. Over the last week-and-a-half, in particular, I think he’s really started to click with the weapons at his disposal. Not only that, but he’s continued to assert himself as a vital team leader.
GK: There were certainly a number of candidates, but I’ll go with quarterback Cody Kessler, who ran the offense with workmanlike precision and kept getting better and better. Probably not a shock, but if your quarterback in a new system isn’t the camp MVP, you’re probably in trouble in the early going.
What is one thing for USC fans to pay attention to on Saturday?
GP: I think the fans are going to want to watch the up-tempo offense in action and my guess is Sarkisian gives them exactly what they want. Pay attention to how the ball is spread around, Sarkisian does a very good job of playing to the strengths of his players.
JC: The offensive line. No group entered camp surrounded by more uncertainty, and while Tim Drevno’s group made noticeable strides, while also appearing to come together as a unit over the course of the last few weeks, no one will know just how good they really are until they go up against an opponent for the first time – particularly with two freshmen likely to start. It will also be interesting to see just how often Sarksian & Co. rotate players in and out of the lineup here, and how those reserves perform.
GK: Granted watching offensive line play can be - to some - like watching paint dry, but with two freshmen offensive guards (Toa Lobendahn and Damien Mama) starting, it will be fascinating how they perform under so much responsibility and inexperience. And don’t forget Max Tuerk’s center snaps back to Cody Kessler in the shotgun. It’s something that will be taken for granted until there is a snafu.
Which freshman will be the biggest surprise?
GP: With Josh Shaw out, there should be more opportunity for a guy like Jonathan Lockett in sets that involve multiple corners. I’m not saying Lockett will play more than Adoree’ but the surprise will be how often he plays and how well he plays.
JC: Ajene Harris. He wasn’t one of the most highly touted recruits in USC’s signing class, but Harris has been impossible not to notice this month. A high school quarterback and defensive back, he’s made a remarkable transition to college wide receiver, even nailing down the starting slot receiver position.
GK: If starting slot receiver Ajene Harris was the biggest surprise in training camp, you’d have to give him the early nod, as well, in this category. You never know how an inexperienced freshman is going to perform in a real game, but the thinking here is after watching him extensively in practice and scrimmage situations, Harris has earned the starting spot, but we’ll see if that transitions to games.
Who made the biggest leap from 2013 to 2014?
GP: Anthony Sarao has always been a solid and steady player but this year we’re seeing him raise his game even more. Sarao is smart and he puts his experience to use to always be around the football.
JC: Chris Hawkins. Noticeably athletic, but also extremely raw when he first arrived as a freshman in the spring of 2013, Hawkins has matured by leaps and bounds since that time, not only physically, but technically as well. He’s looked extremely solid in coverage, and I think he’s going to have a very productive season.
GK: I’ll go with junior nose tackle Antwaun Woods, who is on track to become a very big factor on the D-line not only because he is a physical player who keeps getting better, but he has also become a leader, who practices what he preaches.