College Football Predictions: #24 USC Trojans at Hawaii Warriors
#24 Southern California Trojans at Hawaii Warriors
Aloha Stadium – Honolulu, Hawaii
Thursday, August 29, 2013, 11:00 pm Eastern, TV: CBS Sports Network
Opening Line: USC -20 1/2
Current Line: USC -23 1/2
Opening Total: 53
Current Total: 53 1/2
Opening Money Line: USC -1600 / Hawaii +950
Current Money Line: USC -2000 / Hawaii +1100
A year after being the pre-season #1 team, and ending up a very disappointing 7-6 the seat could not be hotter for USC coach Lane Kiffin. Kiffin needs a good season or he could be out of a job. The Trojans open the 2013 season at the Hawaii Warriors who were 3-9 last year under coach Norm Chow. Chow was the longtime offensive coordinator at USC until several years ago. Since then Chow has been the offensive coordinator at UCLA, the NFL’s Tennessee Titans, and Utah.
USC has won all 8 meetings against Hawaii, including 5-0 in Honolulu. The Trojans crushed the Warriors last year in LA 49-10 in the season opener. The series dates all the way back to 1930.
The Trojans weren’t terrible on offense last year, but they should have been much better with the talent they had. USC was #38 in total offense at 432.9 yards per game and 40th in points scored at 32.1 points per game. Kiffin promoted Clay Helton to offensive coordinator in the offseason.
Sophomore quarterbacks Cody Kessler and Max Wittek were locked in a tight battle from spring practice on to replace Matt Barkley. Kiffin did not name a starter between the two and said both will play against Hawaii. Wittek took over from Barkley late last season when Barkley injured his shoulder. Wittek threw for 388 yards with 3 touchdowns and 5 interceptions last year in losses to Notre Dame and to Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl. Kessler was the third stringer last year but looked sharper in spring practice. Running back Silas Redd had 167 carries, 905 yards and 9 touchdowns, and also caught a touchdown pass. Redd is doubtful with a knee injury and back-up D.J. Morgan is also out with a knee injury. Look for five star freshman Justin Davis to get most of the carries. Junior receiver Marqise Lee won the Biletnikoff award for the nation’s best receiver. He had 118 catches, 1,721 yards, and 14 touchdowns last year. Lee is probable with a shoulder injury. Tight ends Xavier Grimble and Randall Telfer will someday be in the NFL as will Lee. The line returns four starters but needs to do better in run blocking.
The USC defense was 40th nationally allowing 24.3 points per game, but they were shredded in losses to Arizona, Oregon, and UCLA giving up an average of 46 points in those games. Kiffin even fired his own father Monte as a result of the poor play. New coordinator Clancy Pendergast has installed a 5-2 defense. The defense will be led by linebackers Morgan Breslin (13 sacks) and Hayes Pullard (107 tackles.) Linebacker Dion Biley had four interceptions last year and now moves to safety in the new system. He is probable with a hip injury.
Hawaii is usually known for prolific offense, and Chow is one of the brightest offensive minds in football. It seemed like a match made in heaven, but Hawaii was dreadful on offense last year averaging 21.2 points and just under 300 yards per game. The Warriors were 121 out of 124 teams in total offense last year. Hawaii’s only wins came at home over Lamar, UNLV, and South Alabama. Hawaii scored 14 points or less in 6 games last year. Aaron Price takes over at offensive coordinator.
Ohio State transfer junior Taylor Graham will be the starting quarterback after sitting out last year. He was the back-up at Ohio St but didn’t really fit into Urban Meyer’s system. He hasn’t started a game since 2009 in high school. Junior running back Joey Iosefa missed a few games last year, but still had 125 carries, 463 yards and a touchdown, along with 19 catches, 153 yards and a touchdown. he is out indefinitely with a foot injury. A comittee of running backs will try to replace his production, including Steven Lakalaka, Jason Muraoka, Samson Anguay, and Aofaga Wily. Senior receiver Billy Ray Stutzmann had 35 catches for 447 yards, but had 910 yards and 78 catches in 2011. The offensive line struggled both in pass protection and run blocking.
If possible, the defense might have been even worse than the offense, giving up 35.7 points per game. The pass defense was actually #11 in the country, but the Warriors were terrible against the run giving up just over 190 yards per game. In their 9 losses Hawaii gave up at least 35 points to everyone except Air Force who beat them 21-7. The defense should be better with all three starters returning at linebacker, and the secondary should be the strongest part of the defense led by safety Marrell Jackson who had 56 tackles last year. Senior defensive end Tavita Woodard had 5.5 sacks last year.
Hawaii was 4-7 ATS last year and the total was 6-5 last year. The Warriors are 4-1 ATS against Pac 12 schools, 3-8 in non-conference games, 5-14 overall, 2-8 at home, and 3-12 on fieldturf.
USC was 3-10 ATS and the total was 5-8 last season. The Trojans are 4-1 ATS in August, 1-4 on fieldturf, 1-5 overall, 0-7 in road games, and 0-4 in non-conference games.
If properly motivated USC can beat this team by 50 points even without Redd. However, this seems like a game where USC jumps out to a big lead early and falls asleep letting Hawaii back in the game. Or, maybe even the opposite, where USC lets Hawaii hang around then the Trojans pull away late. Either way, 23.5 seems like a lot of points. I see the score being something like 42-24.
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