Are you ready for some (college) football!!!!!
After what seems like a million and a half days, we are now less than 24 hours till the No. 14 USC Trojans (0-0/0-0) face the Hawaii Warriors (0-0/0-0) on the turf in Aloha Stadium where the boys in cardinal and gold commence a season where some have already declared their season a wash.
Don't tell that to the USC Trojan players, who have been practicing and conditioning hard to avenge a season that many 'SC fans called a failure. A 9-4 record may be acceptable for some programs, but it isn't for fans who saw their team win seven straight PAC-10 titles. Players are tired of hearing it and now they will be showing just why a 9-4 record just does not quite equate to USC football.
Back to game, the Trojans arrived in Hawaii Wednesday night (Hawaii time) where they made some final preparations before mentally preparing for Thursday. The starters have been named, now it is time to display their skills against a Hawaii program that will want to forget why it formed a football team in the first place.
Hawaii is led by quarterback Bryan Moniz. He's not going to give you Colt Brennan numbers, but he had an OK season last year for the Warriors where he racked up 2,396 yards with 14 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. This coming after an injury that ended Hawaii's former starting QB, Greg Alexander, who started the first four games of the '09 season.
The Hawaii offense revolves around a run-and-shoot offense, which will benefit Moniz as he has a couple of talented receivers around him. One of those receivers is team captain Greg Salas, who had 1,590 yards and eight touchdowns for the Warriors last season. He ranked fourth nationally with 122.3 receiving yards per game.
Don't expect Salas to have a big game tomorrow as Moniz will be struggling to pass the ball to him. This is because the Warriors lost four starting offensive lineman this season, which goes on to mean that the Trojans' front seven will eat up Hawaii's line.
As for the defense, unlike the offensive line, they are experienced. Seniors cover the secondary while the line is led by captain Kaniela Tuipuluto, who will try to pressure USC's offensive line, which will be a serious problem.
Enough of Hawaii, let's get on to the Trojans.
Trojans offense is led by sophomore quarterback Matt Barkley, who is now experienced. I say that because all eyes are on him to succeed and light up numbers that former recent USC quarterbacks put up. Talent is not a problem as he is surrounded by highly touted players when they graduated high school. Senior Ronald Johnson leads the receiving core followed by true freshman Robert Woods, who has done nothing but be the special player everyone thought he would be since he was the talk of the talk during his sophomore year in high school.
Marc Tyler will start at running back and will finally hope to see a healthy amount of reps to get his healthy body moving. Tyler shed several pounds to be lighter and faster, but able to pound his way through just like he showed everyone in his high school videos. Expect to see Hawaiian defenders get tossed around after Tyler bulldozes his way through the line seeking a first down.
Speaking of the offensive line, they will be in the prayers of every USC fan hoping none of them will go down with injuries. USC lost backup center sophomore Abe Markowitz, who spoils his homecoming to Honolulu, to a toe injury last week that will sideline him for several weeks. Offensive guard Khaled Holmes suffered a mild neck injury last week as well, but will get the start.
The USC defense is highlighted by the "Fearsome Foursome" defensive line that will give the inexperienced Hawaiian O-line serious problems. Senior Jurrell Casey will display to the people, who will be watching on ESPN on Thursday night, his skills as a three-technique tackle instead of the nose tackle that he was last season. His former position will be filled by junior DaJohn Mustard...er... DaJohn Harris who has seen his stock rise under the careful teachings of defensive line coach Ed Orgeron. Defensive ends junior Armond Armstead and sophomore Wes Horton will fill in the strong and weak-side end positions respectively. Keep an eye on Armstead, who looks like an NFL defensive end with his strength and size. Defensive end sophomore Nick Perry is listed as questionable (foot).
The secondary raises the biggest questions in the defense. There will be no talk of problems from senior Shareece Wright because, well, there haven't been any problems with Shareece Wright, who figures to be a premier cornerback in the land of college football. On the other hand, like the starting wideouts, the starting cornerbacks will feature a senior and true freshman. That true freshman is Nickell Robey, whom defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin personally recruited during his days at Tennessee. Kiffin saw something special in Robey and we may be able to see what he saw as I will keep a close eye on the talented freshman.
TJ Mcdonald and Jawanza Starling may be the biggest hitters on the secondary, but the starting safeties also raises the biggest question marks. How will the sophomores fare after they filled in the holes that were home to former safeties Taylor Mays and Will Harris? Stay tuned.
Congratulations, again, to sophomore Devon Kennard, who got the nod as the starting middle linebacker over junior Chris Galippo during fall practice. He will be joined by seniors weak-side linebacker Malcolm Smith and strongside linebacker Michael Morgan. Will they shut up the doubters that wanted a repeat of what the linebackers of the '08 season did? Probably not, but they are very talented. Stay tuned.
Prediction: It's the first game, so I expect there to be some minor mistakes by the Trojans, even if it is against the Hawaii Warriors. Do I believe the mistakes to be costly mistakes that will dictate the whole game in favor of the Hawaii Warriors, who will take advantage of those mistakes and indeed beat USC in front of their home crowd in arguably their biggest game of the season? Yes.
Just kidding, I said minor.
USC wins 54-17