USC schedule breakdown: Part I

We take a game-by-game look at the Trojans' first half of the season, beginning with Aug 30 vs. Fresno State.

Sarkisian: Pac-12 competitive from top to bottom

JUL 24, 3:52 pm
USC head coach Steve Sarkisian on the depth of the Pac-12.

Aug. 30 vs. Fresno State (2013: 11-2, 7-1 Mountain West Champs)

Head coach: Tim DeRuyter has won the Mountain West Conference championship in his two seasons with the Bulldogs, but he has yet to win a bowl game when you include last year's loss to USC in the Las Vegas Bowl.

QB: Replacing Derek Carr won't be easy, and the Bulldogs are still trying to determine who his successor will be. DeRuyter says the team won't name a starter until they get closer to the season opener vs. the Trojans. It's a four-man competition that includes Corona Santiago alum and fifth-year senior Brandon Connette, who transferred from Duke and is immediately eligible.  

Biggest challenge: Getting up for a team you demolished 45-20 the last time USC stepped on the field in the 2013 Las Vegas Bowl, and that team also has to replace its record-breaking quarterback and top receiver, Devante Adams -- a second round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.

Sept. 6 at Stanford (2013: 11-3, 7-2 Pac-12 Champs)

Head coach: David Shaw is 34-7 and appeared in three BCS Bowls in each of his first three seasons as Stanford's head coach.

QB: Kevin Hogan isn't asked to do much in the Cardinal passing game. His 184.1 yards per game during conference last season was 11th in the Pac-12. Hogan threw six interceptions in Pac-12 games last season -- a season-high two of them came in their upset loss at USC.

Biggest challenge: Rushing the ball. USC has averaged 24.5 rush yards per game in their last two meetings vs the Cardinal.

Sept. 13 at Boston College (2013: 7-6, 4-4 4th ACC Atlantic)

Head coach: Steve Addazio, who won two BCS titles while on Urban Meyer's staff at Florida, took over a 2-10 program and led them to seven wins and a bowl berth in 2013.

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QB: Addazio, according to reports, is trying to find a Tim Tebow clone and has a host of quarterbacks to choose from, including 6-foot freshman Troy Flutie who's uncle, Doug, is a BC icon.

Biggest challenge: Any coach will tell you traveling across the country is a tough thing to do. Fortunately for the Trojans, the game is slated for an 8 p.m. kickoff on the East Coast.  

Sept. 27 vs. Oregon State (2013: 7-6, 4-5 4th Pac-12 North)

Head coach: The longest tenured head coach in the Pac-12, Mike Riley, is entering his 14th season at Oregon State. Only seven current coaches in the country have held their posts longer than Riley. The former USC assistant is 0-4 on the road vs. the Trojans.

QB: Phil Steele ranks Sean Mannion the fifth best quarterback in the nation. The fifth-year senior set the Pac-12 record for total offense in 2013. His 31 career starts trail only Ohio State's Braxton Miller (32) for most in the country.

Biggest challenge: There's no substitute for experience. There are few things Mannion has not seen in his prolific career. It can't be expected that he'll throw three interceptions the next time he faces USC as he did in 2013.

Oct. 4 vs. Arizona State (2013: 10-4, 8-1 Pac-12 South Champs)

Head coach: Todd Graham is the reigning Pac-12 Coach of the Year after leading the Sun Devils to their first conference title game in 2013.

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Kelvin Kuo / USA TODAY Sports

QB: A one-time two-star recruit out of Idaho, Taylor Kelly is on pace to leave Arizona State as the school's all-time leader in pass touchdowns, completions, offensive yards per game, and total offense.

Biggest challenge: Protecting the Coliseum. If anything, the Arizona State vs USC series has been consistent over the last few years with the home team dominating. The first Saturday in October will have huge Pac-12 South implications on the line.

Oct. 11 at Arizona (2013: 8-5, 4-5 4th Pac-12 South)

Head coach: Entering his third season, Rich Rodriguez has posted identical 8-5 records in each of his first two seasons.

QB: Arizona is one of two team's in the Pac-12 that doesn't have a returning starter at quarterback. The competition to replace North Torrance alum B.J. Denker is up for grabs and it includes former USC quarterback and Lakewood alum Jesse Scroggins.

Biggest challenge: Overshadowed by Marquise Lee's 16 reception, 345 yard, two touchdown performance in USC's 39-36 loss to the Wildcats in Tucson in 2012 was Austin Hill's 10 catches for 259 yards. If Rodriguez finds someone who can throw the ball to Hill, who missed all of 2013 with a torn ACL, look out. 

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