USC Better Be Prepared for the Spartans!

USC facing a San Jose State team that can’t be overlooked

Adam Grosbard (OC Register)  —  LOS ANGELES — As the college football season kicked off in some stadiums across the country this past weekend, USC got one last Saturday to rest before its 2021 campaign starts in earnest. Some went home to spend time with family, others may have turned on one of the Week 0 games.

San Jose State Spartans QB Nick Starkel (17) launches a completion against Southern Utah in the first half of their opener at CEFCU Stadium in San Jose last Saturday, winning easily 45-14 (Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group).

One of those contests involved USC’s Week 1 opponent, San Jose State. The Spartans picked up right where they left off last season with a 45-14 drubbing of Southern Utah.

“Kind of a double-edged sword,” USC defensive coordinator Todd Orlando said last week of San Jose State getting a head start to the season. “Because you get an opportunity to see the people that they’re going to play now. … But when you get game experience, it’s hard to simulate that in practice.”

The Spartans might not be a Power Five opponent, but they still present a very real threat to the Trojans. A year ago, San Jose State went undefeated in the regular season and beat Boise State, 34-20, in the Mountain West Conference championship game, finishing No. 24 in the AP poll (5-1 USC finished No. 21).

And there’s been little turnover on the San Jose State roster. The Spartans had a couple of top receivers to replace, but starting quarterback Nick Starkel is back, as are all five starting offensive linemen, every impact running back and every contributor on the defense.

That cohesion was on full display in the Spartans’ victory over Southern Utah, out-gaining their opponent 543-250. There were some mistakes, such as two turnovers and 11 penalties accounting for 91 yards and four Southern Utah first downs. But the Spartans didn’t let those impact the final result.

“I thought the effort looked really good to me,” head coach Brent Brennan said after the game. “We definitely had some first-game rustiness, first-game over-excitement. But I’m encouraged.”

USC hoped to get some clarity on who would replace San Jose State’s top receivers from a year ago, Tre Walker and Bailey Gaither. But Starkel spread the ball around, no receiver making more than three catches in the opener and a total of nine Spartans making receptions, and four catching touchdown passes.

Freshman receiver Charles Ross led the team with three catches for 77 yards, 65 of which came on a touchdown catch.

All of this is to say, USC will be facing a team at the Coliseum with experience and few holes on the roster that could be a tougher matchup than some of the Pac-12 teams on the Trojans’ schedule.

USC started preparing for the Spartans last Wednesday after training camp came to an end. The prep began with first- and second-down install, followed by third-down and red-zone planning before a final practice at the Coliseum on Saturday in which the team practiced with live-game situations like coaches in the press box communicating with headsets.

But now it’s the first game week of the year.

“These kids have put in a lot of work to get to this point,” USC head coach Clay Helton said last week. “It’s been extremely nice, from the offseason to the summer to training camp to get back to a little normality. I can tell you, we’re a lot further ahead at this point now than we were at this point last year.”

ocregister.com

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HOF19
Noble Genius
HOF19
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August 31, 2021 6:02 pm

Seeing reports on internet >>>>>> “USC wide receiver Gary Bryant is out due to health and safety protocols, Clay Helton says. He doesn’t anticipate Bryant will be available for Saturday’s game.”

Steveg
Noble Genius
Steveg
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August 31, 2021 11:43 am

I am just not sure what will happen and my expectations are very low considering the team leadership. This has been my posture for the last 5 years and nothing has happened to change that very much. Perhaps this coaching staff has found the way to win around Helton, which is the only way they will be successful in 2021. These guys could go 10-2 or 11-1 if they were well led, but it just isn’t there and we all know it. So I expect little, get excited about squeaking out a win and not getting upset over giving one… Read more »

Jamaica
Noble Genius
Jamaica
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August 31, 2021 1:19 pm
Reply to  Steveg

And Steveg, that is the reality of where this program is. Even against a SJS team, we don’t know what will happen. A flagship program that has fallen enough through years of non-development and depth issues which year after year is dependent on a few skilled players, namely a QB and his receivers to win games. The non-skill positions are full of 3 & some 4-star athletes that a tarnished USC brand-name was still able to attract instead of mostly 4 & 5-star players it should have attracted, enough of them that were within driving distance of USC were no… Read more »

Jamaica
Noble Genius
Jamaica
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August 31, 2021 1:34 pm
Reply to  Allen Wallace

Have any USC football players signed NIL deals yet in the Nation’s 2nd largest market?

TrojanRJJ
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TrojanRJJ
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August 31, 2021 2:15 pm
Reply to  Allen Wallace

No money yet. Clay cannot survive this. The ex-MD QB who transferred away from Clay to GA (JT) has a million dollar deal, the ex-MD QB who went to AL (and has yet to play a meaningful down) has a million dollar deal, the ex-Bosco QB who went to Clemson is starring in a Dr. Pepper commercial I saw over the weekend. I think the DE at Oregon also signed a big dollar deal. And, this kid who went to tOSU gets to be a millionaire.

Chris
Major Genius
Chris
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August 31, 2021 11:33 am

We will run the ball against SJS- 200 yards and 2 scores. Drake London will catch 2 scores. Defense creates 3 turnovers.
USC 45 SJS 27. But it’s 42-13 after 3 qtrs.

ATL D.D.S.
Noble Genius
ATL D.D.S.
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September 2, 2021 7:15 am
Reply to  Allen Wallace

Down here we have hellacious thunderstorms—a game could get called after 3 quarters. Maybe JarJar the Cat will dial up a rare SoCal thunderstorm to protect him from coaching a 4th quarter collapse.

TrojanMPA90
Noble Genius
TrojanMPA90
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August 31, 2021 1:44 pm
Reply to  Chris

If we play the way we are capable of playing and not down to the level of SJS, we should beat them easily. Our talent is significantly greater than what they have. Where it might be a close game is how Helton coaches the team. If he lets his coordinators do their job and stays out of the way, we win. Otherwise it might be close.

Golden Trojan
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Golden Trojan
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August 31, 2021 11:27 am

Just not sure SC can win by 17, 10-14 feels more likely, expecting typical first game sloppiness by Helton’s teams, lots of penalties, failing to adjust in the first half, mailing it in in the 4th quarter with a slim lead.

rleeholder1
rleeholder1
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August 31, 2021 10:18 am

I’m very concerned about San Jose State. At least we have a veteran QB returning. I’ll never forget the debacle of an opener in 1991 when we lost to Memphis State with a QB starting his first game and eventually being sat down that season. In my opinion, it was the beginning of the end for Larry Smith as SC’s Head Coach. One benefit if we lose to San Jose State, it could be the end for Helton. Just a thought!

RialtoTrojan
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RialtoTrojan
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August 31, 2021 10:09 am

91 yards in penalties for SJS? Is their coach related to Helton? Really I expect the number of penalty yards to go down drastically for the Spartans but USC will probably be doing their level best to break their record of 15 penalties. An interesting point is the cohesiveness of the Spartan line. Can someone remind me when was the last time anyone said the same about the Trojan line? (unless they were saying the line was collectively bad) Reggie Bush mentioned that football is a game of chess. Our problem is Helton is playing Old Maid. Looking forward to… Read more »