No. 1 USC Football Team Opens 2012 At Home Vs. Hawaii
Aug. 26, 2012
The top-ranked USC football team kicks off its 2012 season--and the Labor Day weekend--when it welcomes Hawaii for just the third time ever to the Coliseum. Great anticipation and excitement surround the Trojans, who are bowl eligible after a 2-year NCAA ban.
Hawaii will be led by a familiar face, former Trojan assistant Norm Chow, who in his 40th year in the profession will be making his collegiate head coaching debut. Interestingly, Lane Kiffin's debut as USC's head coach was a 2010 road win at Hawaii. This will be the fourth time since 1999 that the teams have opened a season against each other (and the teams meet again next year in Hawaii). USC, which has won its last 14 openers, has yet to lose in 7 tries against Hawaii (averaging nearly 50 points each game) and has lost just once in 20 games against current Mountain West Conference teams (this is the Warriors' inaugural season in the MWC). The game is the first of 3 sold-out USC home games (the others are nearing capacity) and it will be shown live nationally on FOX, Troy's first time on that network's air. The contest will be broadcast in both English and Spanish on TV and radio.
USC was the nation's hottest team at the end of 2011 and the hope is that the momentum carries over to 2012, although the Trojans are in the first year of an NCAA-imposed 3-year reduction of scholarships so depth could be an issue. Troy is led by marquee players on both sides of the ball. The offense returns 9 starters, including a 3,500-yard passer (Heisman Trophy candidate QB Matt Barkley), a pair of 1,000-yard receivers (All-American Robert Woods and Freshman All-American Marqise Lee, both Biletnikoff Award hopefuls), a 1,000-yard rusher joined by a transfer who also hit that mark (TBs Curtis McNeal and ex-Penn Stater Silas Redd) and a pair of tight ends who combined for 9 touchdowns (Randall Telfer and Xavier Grimble). C Khaled Holmes is a leading Rimington Trophy nominee and OG Marcus Martin was a Freshman All-American.
The USC defense is similarly impressive (the top 4 tacklers return), with standouts such as All-American S T.J. McDonald and CB Nickell Robey (both are Thorpe Award candidates), Freshman All-American LBs Dion Bailey and Hayes Pullard and DE Wes Horton. PK Andre Heidari was a Freshman All-American when he hit 15 field goals, P Kyle Negrete is a master at directional punting and USC has a stable of explosive returners.
Hawaii returns 10 starters from last season's 6-7 team, including 6 on an offense that will be more conventional than the previous years' run-and-shoot while breaking in a new quarterback. Most of the Warriors' top pass catchers from 2011 are back, including team leader Billy Ray Stutzman and fellow WRs Jeremiah Ostrowski, Justin Clapp and Trevor Davis. RB Joey Iosefa is a power back who topped the team in rushing last fall. On defense, watch for LB Art Laurel, DL Paipai Falemalu and DBs John Hardy-Tuliau and Mike Edwards (who played for Kiffin at Tennessee).
There will be a pre-game flyover as part of USC's Joint Forces Day celebration and Trojan All-American Junior Seau will be remembered during the game. For the first time since 1953, fans can take convenient rail service to the Coliseum. The Women of Troy volleyball and soccer teams host tournaments over the weekend, with the volleyballers playing in the Galen Center immediately after the football game.