- Greg Katz, Columnist, WeAreSC.com
Saturday marks the beginning of the 2011 season and the end to a long offseason of conference changes, roster turnover and anticipation.
The Obvious: Saturday, in front of an anticipated turnout of 75,000 fans at the storied Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, the No. 25-ranked USC Trojans and the unranked Minnesota Golden Gophers, two teams searching for identities, will try to defend the honor of the new Pac-12 and the new Big Ten, respectively, by opening the 2011 season (3:30 p.m. ET).
The Not So Obvious: Yes, it's now a whole new world in the Pac-12 with the additions of Utah and Colorado. As for the Big Ten, Nebraska's Big Red, once the pride of the Big 12 is now the 12th team in the Big Ten. Got it? Come Saturday in the Coliseum, however, it all reverts to tradition, the West Coast battling the Midwest, and in this rare occasion not in Pasadena on New Year's Day.
The Obvious: The Trojans opened as a 20-point favorite over Minnesota at home.
The Not So Obvious: The last time the Trojans played Minnesota in Los Angeles was 1979, and the Men of Troy whipped UM 48-14 in front of 61,766 in the Coliseum. The Trojans lead the series 5-1-1. The Cardinal and Gold have won their last 13 openers and past 11 games against Big Ten teams.
The Obvious: The weather forecast for Saturday's game calls for sunny with a high of 83 and a low of 65.
The Not So Obvious: The real "whether" forecast is whether the mystery Minnesota offense of first-year coach Jerry Kill catches the Trojans' reborn defense by surprise. Then there is the mystery as to whether Trojan receivers will hold on to passes from Matt Barkley, who has looked sharp of late. A very real concern is whether this rebuilt Trojans offensive line makes a statement. It figures that Minnesota will throw the ball at some point, and we'll see whether this markedly improved Trojans secondary is, well, markedly improved. Lastly, we'll jot down whether Saturday's home attendance is a benchmark or a precursor of the future.
42mDarren Rovell and Dan Rafael
8hMarc Stein and Tim MacMahon