Aloha Preview: No. 14 USC at Hawaii

September 2, 2010
Aloha Stadium
Honolulu, Hawaii
8 PM PT
ESPN

The bell tolls with new leadership  for the USC football program.  Pete Carroll is long gone, and many of his achievements have been scratched from the books. It’s a new era, under the direction of new faces, and it comes with new challenges.

The opponent faces challenges of its own, still looking to halt the  descent of the program in the absence June Jones.  It took just two seasons for the Warriors to go from conference champion and BCS buster to dwelling in WAC insignificance.  An opening victory against the 14th ranked mainlanders could provide a spark to resurgence, but the inferior roster would have to execute with perfection to pull it off.

HAWAII WARRIORS (0-0)

2009: 6-7
National rank: none

As the win totals faded, the Hawaii football program also vanished from the national spotlight.  But the Warriors did manage to maintain one thing under head coach Greg McMackin, and that is offensive firepower.

Hawaii finished 14th in the nation in overall offense a year ago, with an average of 437 yards per game.  They were the third best passing team in the country, marking the tenth time in the past eleven seasons that the Warriors finished in the top-10 of the category.

Quarterback Bryant Moniz will lead the group, looking to pick up where he left off a year ago. The redshirt junior was inserted for eight games in 2009, after starter Greg Alexander was sidelined with a season ending knee injury.  Moniz held off camp challengers to retain the position and will open against USC.

Moniz threw for more than 2,300 yards in eight starts, connecting for 14 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Greg Salas and Kealoha Phares provide him with talent out wide.  Salas’ 106 receptions led the Warriors in 2009, and Phares hauled in an additional 66.  This trio will bear the offensive burden, lacking the support of a productive rush attack, which was nearly nonexistent a year ago.

McMackin is a defensive schemer, having coordinated units for the NFL’s Seahawks before coming to Hawaii.  But he appears short-handed on the island, which forces a position of gambling for success.  With Manny Silva and Spencer Smith, there is talent in the secondary, but unfortunately for the Warriors, there isn’t much else to offer.  With an inexperienced linebacker corps and a defensive line that lacks dominance, the unit relies heavily on turnovers to impede offensive movement.

USC TROJANS (0-0)

2009: 9-4
National Rank: 14 (AP)

After declaring competitions open in the spring, Lane Kiffin arrives with a roster filled with question marks.  Matt Barkley retained his starting role, but it’s not as solid as it was under Carroll’s watch.  Depending on his performance, and the scoreboard, we could see a fair dose of Mitch Mustain before this one is over.

Barkley threw for 2,735 yards and 15 touchdowns as a true freshman, but he also had his struggles, as reflected in the 14 interceptions.  He goes into his second season without favorite receiving target Damian Williams and scat back Joe McKnight, after both moved on to the NFL.  Also missing is the safety valve at tight end, Anthony McCoy, and blind side defender Charles Brown.

It’s a rebuilt unit that features speedster Ronald Johnson at one receiving spot and freshman Robert Woods at the other.  The backfield remains undecided. Freshman sensation Dillon Baxter is serving his suspension and sitting out the opener, which made everyone assume Allen Bradford would get the starting nod.  But instead of going with Carroll’s power back from a year ago, Kiffin has chosen Marc Tyler to receive the opening carries against Hawaii.

Monte Kiffin now coaches a defense that fell apart down the stretch last year.  It’s rebuilt secondary will feature T.J. McDonald at free safety, Jawanza Starling at strong safety, and Shareece Wright and Nickel Robey guarding the corners.  Devon Kennard has replaced Chris Galippo at Middle Linebacker, and the line is anchored by All-America candidate Jurrell Casey.

Analysis: USC enters this game as a three touchdown favorite, and rightfully so.  Hawaii’s offensive line struggled for most of last year, and to make matters worse, they return just one starter from that unit.  In a typical tale of David versus Goliath, the Warriors will need to light up the scoreboard to keep pace and stay in the game.  With an inexperienced front comes protection issues, which may disallow them to match their opponent point for point.

X-Factor: Stanley Havili should have plenty of opportunities against a risk taking defense.  The sure-handed fullback with deceptive speed often creates poor match ups as a receiving presence and is sometimes forgotten by defenders.  Look for Havili to have big numbers in the opener.

Prediction: USC 48, Hawaii 17

All Time Series: USC leads 6-0
Last meeting: 2005 (Honolulu)- USC 63, Hawaii 17

Fun Fact: The Trojans have scored 60+ points in each of the last three meetings against the Warriors, dating back to 1999.  USC offenses have also scored 50 or more points in four of the six meetings with Hawaii.

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~ by Anthony on August 30, 2010.

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