The college football season is returning on Thursday, and USC is back on the ascent under Lane Kiffin, ranking 24th in the country heading into the campaign. They’ll begin their journey in Hawaii, a program going through their own transition.
The Trojans are still on probation and that hurt them last season as they started off as the #1 team in the country and nosedived to a 7-6 record. Matt Barkley has left for the NFL and the starting quarterback spot will go to either Max Wittek or Cody Kessler, with Wittek presumably in the lead due to playing last year. Either player will have the best receiver in the country as Marquis Lee returns for what should be his final year at USC. The defense is very active among the front seven, led by reigning Pac-12 Freshman of the Year Leonard Williams at end, but the Trojans have to overcome the loss of three starters at defensive back.
The Rainbow Warriors struggled to a 3-9 record in their first year under Norm Chow, who was the offensive coordinator at USC from 2001 to 2004. It was surprisingly, however, how bad the offense was under Chow, finishing 118th in the country in total offense, 98th in passing offense and 111th in rushing offense. Taylor Graham takes over at quarterback for Sean Schroeder, but the line has to improve after allowing 40 sacks last season. The defense is actually pretty decent, especially at the back end, and they’ll get a workout from USC.
USC comes into this game favored by 22.5 points on the college football odds and they have won all five of their meetings with Hawaii, including last season’s 49-10 thrashing to open the season. The Trojans have averaged 56.8 points in those five games against the Rainbow Warriors.
Pick: USC -22.5