Southern Cal-Hawaii Preview

Few things are certain at the onset of the college football

season, but Southern California knows its will end at the Rose

Bowl.

It won’t be playing in the New Year’s Day game, however.

With sanctions in place banning USC from playing in a bowl, Lane

Kiffin’s 14th-ranked Trojans are out to prove they deserve to be

considered one of the nation’s top teams this season beginning with

Thursday night’s opener at Hawaii.

Kiffin took over for Pete Carroll, who bolted for the NFL a few

months before USC was sanctioned with a two-year bowl ban. The NCAA

ruled former Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush and basketball

player O.J. Mayo received improper benefits.

The sanctions allowed players to transfer without having to take

a year off and many did leave, leaving Kiffin, who has his own

history of NCAA missteps, with just 70 scholarship players – 15

below the NCAA’s limit – at the start of training camp.

Although the Trojans know there will be no bowl game following

their Dec. 4 finale against UCLA at the Rose Bowl, they aren’t

about to lower their standards.

“The only way we’re going to be able to express ourselves is to

win 13 games,” said senior tailback Allen Bradford, who rushed for

668 yards and eight touchdowns last season. “We know it’s going to

be difficult this year. We’re playing for a tradition. We’re

playing for a school. We’re playing for ourselves.”

Kiffin arrives following a 9-4 season for the Trojans, who

suffered their most losses since going 6-6 in 2001, failing to win

a share of the Pac-10 title for the first time since that same

year. USC, which defeated Boston College in last December’s Emerald

Bowl, averaged 26.5 points and 389.1 yards – large drop-offs from

their norms of 37.8 and 458.2 from the previous seven seasons.

“I do get a sense from the players that they have an

us-against-the-world mentality, that everybody is counting them

out,” Kiffin said. “I don’t really look at it that way or emphasize

that, but I think it’s helping some of our players.”

Kiffin is hoping quarterback Matt Barkley can show greater

consistency than he did as a freshman.

Barkley appeared in 12 games last season, completing 59.9

percent of his passes for 2,735 yards, 15 touchdowns and 14

interceptions.

He’ll be joined in the backfield by junior Marc Tyler, who won

the starting job by beating out Bradford – the team’s top returning

rusher.

Tyler missed all but one game last season due to a toe injury,

but is in his best shape in years after dropping 15 pounds since

spring ball. He rushed for 198 yards and a touchdown in limited

duty as a freshman in 2008.

This will be the Trojans’ first game against Hawaii since a

63-17 win in 2005. USC is 6-0 all-time against the Warriors, and

has scored at least 61 points in each of the last three

meetings.

Like the Trojans, Hawaii is also coming off a disappointing

2009. The Warriors went 6-7, finished fifth in the Western Athletic

Conference and failed to go to a bowl for the first time since

2005.

A fast start will be a tall order given Hawaii’s early schedule.

After hosting USC, the Warriors travel across the country to play

Army and then visit Colorado before returning home.

“We’ve got a competitive beginning with those three games,”

coach Greg McMackin said. “It’s going to be a challenging schedule,

but I think that we have the players to win.”

McMackin believes quarterback Bryant Moniz will do a better job

of leading the offense after being thrown into the starting role

last season following a season-ending injury to Greg Alexander.

Moniz started eight games as a sophomore in 2009, and threw for

2,396 yards with 14 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

“He was really still learning as he went, but this year he has a

better grasp of the offense,” McMackin said.

Moniz’s top target returns in wide receiver Greg Salas, who

ranked fourth in the Football Bowl Subdivision in receiving yards

per game (122.3) last season and led the team in both catches (106)

and receiving yards (1,590).