USC vs. San Jose State: Get To Know The Trojans
Can the Spartans upset the Trojans
… ok maybe keep it close
San Jose State travels down the California coast to take on the USC Trojans in a Week 0 matchup that will be a very challenging game for San Jose State.
The Spartans are a 31-point underdogs so a win will be a sizable upset.
To get to know this 2023 USC football team, we chatted with Matt Zemek of Trojans Wire to get the inside scoop.
1. What was the biggest take away from fall camp?
Frankly, the main thing from camp is that the team is healthy (although one of its defensive linemen, Solomon Tuliaupupu, was lost for the season with an injury). USC had a number of players injured last season, which cut into the team’s already-limited depth. If those players are able to play and play well this year, USC gains crucial dimensions of depth on defense and can be a much better overall team.
2. What are the lingering concerns heading into the opener?
The lingering concerns are all on the defensive side of the ball. As long as Caleb Williams and center Justin Dedich are healthy the whole season, the offense should roar. The offense should score at least 30 in every game this season. You’re probably not going to see a 17-point clunker akin to last year at Oregon State. This is a complete offense with a generational talent at quarterback and an elite play-caller at the controls on the sideline.
It’s all about Alex Grinch’s defense. Grinch’s one really good season as a defensive coordinator at Oklahoma was in 2020, the pandemic year. We all know that was a weird year in terms of what teams and coaching staffs were able to do. Grinch benefited from other teams’ lack of practice and preparation. He simply has to deliver the goods, or he should be gone. We will see if USC can get 3-and-outs instead of relying on turnovers the way it did last year. It’s prove-it time in Los Angeles.
3. The defense took a lot of shots last year, how will Alex Grinch improve that side of the ball?
The attempt to improve the defense begins on the defensive line. The Trojans were bad against the run. They didn’t stuff the run up the middle and were therefore vulnerable to virtually everything else opposing offenses tried to do. Bear Alexander and Kyon Barrs are the two new additions to the interior of the defensive line.
They are the merchants of muscle USC lacked in the middle of the D-line last season. If they prove to be as good as advertised, this defense should take the significant leap toward competence. The prevailing thought at USC, among fans and analysts, is that if this defense is a top-50 scoring defense, that will probably be enough to make the College Football Playoff with this offense.
The key point, though, is that while the average number of points allowed is important, it’s more about not having a catastrophic individual game such as the two Utah games. Can USC go through a full season without allowing 40 points in any single game? That might be the most important question of all. I am inclined to think the Trojans will give up at least 40 in one game, maybe two.
4. Who are a few players not named Caleb Williams that San Jose State should be aware of?
Dorian Singer, the transfer wide receiver from Arizona, is the Jordan Addison replacement. He will enable the wide receiver room to remain elite this season. MarShawn Lloyd is the new RB1 this year. Travis Dye held that role last year before getting injured in November. Lloyd is bigger and more powerful than Dye, while Dye was versatile and could be deployed in all sorts of ways. Lloyd is more of a sledgehammer than anyone on the roster was in 2022. USC is deeper at running back this year than it was last year. Dye got almost all the carries before his injury. This year, the Trojans should be able to spread the workload around.
On defense, linebacker Mason Cobb, the transfer from Oklahoma State, is expected to significantly improve the quality of tackling on a defense which did not tackle well at all in 2022. Calen Bullock is the starting safety and the man widely regarded as USC’s best defensive player. Anthony Lucas is a transfer from Texas A&M who will try to become this team’s best pass rusher. Eric Gentry, the transfer from Arizona State who got injured midway through the 2022 season, has put on close to 20 pounds in an attempt to get stronger. Let’s see if he can be more physical at the point of attack at linebacker.
5. How do you see this game playing out?
San Jose State will probably make some big plays early in the game. It could be a wild and crazy first quarter. USC’s defense might finally settle in midway through the second quarter, and the Trojans could begin to pull away after halftime. USC’s offense is simply not going to be stopped by San Jose State or any other opponent without a truly elite defense. USC 59, SJSU 21.