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USC Vs. Minnesota: Keys To The Game For Matt Barkley & The Trojans

The USC Trojans open their 2011 college football season on Saturday afternoon hosting the Minnesota Golden Gophers at the Los Angeles Coliseum. USC opens the season ranked No. 25 in the Associated Press poll, and is a 24-point favorite against the Gophers. Here are the keys to the game.

Mobile QB

Ever since Vince Young shredded the Trojans in the 2006 Rose Bowl, USC has had to answer questions about facing quarterbacks who can run. MarQuies Gray, the junior making his debut at quarterback for Minnesota on Saturday, certainly fits that description. Bruce Feldman, now with CBS Sports, thinks the Trojans will be able to keep Gray in check:

New Gophers coach Jerry Kill knows how to crank up a running game. But Monte Kiffin has simplified his scheme and there is a lot more speed on the defense than there was last year for USC, and it's a group that should be able to stay sharp tackling, unlike in 2010.

Offensive Line

The Trojans have three first time starters on the offensive line: left guard Jeremy Galten, right guard John Martinez, and right tackle Kevin Graf. Keeping quarterback Matt Barkley upright is of paramount concern for USC. "It's one thing when a receiver plays bad or somebody on defense, but when your offensive line plays bad it affects the health of your quarterback," head coach Lane Kiffin told Gary Klein of the LA Times.

Young Receivers

The Trojans are young but talented at wide receiver, with sophomore Robert Woods and freshman Marqise Lee getting the bulk of the time catching passes from Barkley. Last year against Minnesota, Barkley completed 17 of 26 passes for 192 yards with two touchdowns, but also threw two interceptions. Look for Barkley to surpass those numbers Saturday, as the Trojans cruise to victory at home.

Prediction: USC 34, Minnesota 17

For more on USC football, check out Conquest Chronicles.