Posted on August 25, 2023
After a long and tumultuous offseason that saw the Pac-12 fall apart, football has finally returned.
No. 6 USC kicks off the action with Playoff expectations in mind. (You can read more on this in my Preseason Trojans Preview.)
With a new athletic director and the defending Heisman Trophy winner, the Trojans start the year near the top of the College Football world.
Facing a not-to-be-underestimated San Jose State squad, the game is a minor Litmus Test for the SC defense.
I preview the matchup here and the picks of our writers and broadcasters appear at the bottom.
San Jose State at No. 6 USC
LA Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, CA
Saturday, August 26
5:00 pm PT, Pac-12 Network
Everyone knows the Trojans have one of the most elite offenses in the country.
Caleb Williams returns after winning the Heisman Trophy last year, Dorian Singer was added at wide receiver, and MarShawn Lloyd was brought in at running back.
USC should put up 50 points or more.
The real question, though, is how much better the defense is.
The primary knocks on the Trojans over the past few years have been on their “D”—specifically the defensive line—as well as their offensive line.
But with three key transfers brought in along the offensive line and the return of starters Justin Dedich and Jonah Monheim, the questions in the offensive trenches are slightly more muted this season.
The defense, on the other hand, is more of an open question. The group was 109th in the FBS last season in Third Down Defense, giving up conversions 42.9 percent of the time.
Oklahoma State linebacker Mason Cobb and Georgia defensive lineman Bear Alexander were brought in to help. Yet, until the results are shown on the field, the questions will remain.
San Jose State operates a somewhat balanced scheme when it comes to run-pass splits. The offense had a 61/39 ratio last season that favored the pass, yet most of the yards gained came through the air.
The team averaged just 3.3 yards per rush and ranked 123rd in the nation in rushing yards per game. The Spartans do, however, return their leading rusher in Kairee Robinson.
Under no circumstances should the Trojans allow SJSU to breach the 100-yard mark on the ground. If the Spartans are effective running the ball, the questions surrounding USC’s defense figure to only grow louder.
But, the key to beating San Jose State is shutting down the passing attack. Cordeiro was highly efficient last season, passing for 23 touchdowns with just six interceptions.
He also ran for 265 yards and nine scores, creating a dual threat that’s never easy to contain.
Pressure can be used to fluster a mobile quarterback, although it tends to come with big play risks. Still, the Trojans have superior athletes on defense and figure to be aggressive in their game plan.
At the end of the day, Alex Grinch’s unit should hold San Jose State under 21 points while generating at least one turnover.
If the game is anything less than a blowout, the decision to keep Grinch for a second season will likely come under the microscope even further.
Game Picks from Our Senior Writers and Broadcasters
—More from Dane Miller—
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- Dane Miller’s 2023 Week 1 Pac-12 Football Previews
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