The Fresno State Bulldogs open the 2014 season on the road next Saturday against the USC Trojans.
USC is ranked No.15 in the AP top 25 preseason poll.
The Bulldogs were ran out of Las Vegas last December in a 45-20 trouncing at the hands of the Trojans in The Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl. Trojans’ quarterback Cody Kessler was the game’s MVP, completing over 73 percent of his passes for 345 yards and four touchdowns.
Fresno State will need to forget about the past as they approach this game, but their memory needs to stay in tact for the future as they prepare for the Trojans and the talent that will be displayed at the Coliseum on Saturday.
Three and Three
USC has depth issues, however, their starting 22 are solid. Here is a look at six players to watch out for on both sides of the ball.
After not being declared the clear-cut starter as spring practice began in 2014, Kessler has relieved new head coach Steve Sarkisian of any doubts he might of had regarding his junior signal caller. Sarkisian has implemented a new up-tempo style offense that will be run out of the shotgun. The new coach wanted to be sure Kessler was up to the task of running the new scheme so he declared the spring as an open competition at the quarterback position. Kessler left no doubt that his MVP performance in Las Vegas last year was no fluke and he has transitioned into the new offense with no trouble at all.
The talented but oft-injured wide receiver Marqise Lee has left for the NFL, but the Trojans will just insert junior Nelson Agholor as the new featured pass catcher. The versatile receiver started all 13 games in 2013 with 56 catches for 918 yards and 6 touchdowns. Agholor also returns punts and kicks for the Trojans.
At running back, the team returns Javorius Allen who tallied 86 yards on 27 carries and two touchdowns against Fresno State in the bowl game last year. In week 10 of the 2013 season, his carries started to increase due to injuries at the position. As his touches increased, so did his production. Allen rushed for over 120 yards in four of his last five games and found the end zone 10 times during that stretch. Allen ended last season as the Trojans’ leading rusher averaging 5.8 yards per carry with 785 yards, 14 touchdowns and was named the team’s MVP.
On Defense, the Trojans will return key defensive players such as defensive tackle Leonard Williams, linebacker Hayes Pullard and defensive back Josh Shaw. The defense did take a hit though, as outside linebacker Jabari Ruffin and defensive tackle Kenny Bigelow suffered season-ending injuries which raises big questions when talking about the team’s depth on defense.
Williams was a 2013 All-American and is considered one of the best defensive lineman in the country. In 22 career starts, he has 138 tackles (27 for losses), 14 sacks and three fumble recoveries.
Pullard will start his fourth season at inside linebacker as a senior in 2014. Pullard, out of Crenshaw High School is as steady as they come with 282 tackles (20 for losses), six sacks and nine deflections in 39 career starts.
Shaw is the anchor for the Trojans secondary as he is the units most versatile player with the ability to play both the corner and safety positions. The Senior started his career at Florida. His career numbers are 119 tackles (97 at USC), 14 deflections (13 with USC) in 22 starts. Shaw has started in 21 career games for the Trojans.
This is just a glimpse of what the Bulldogs will see first-hand come 4:00 PM next Saturday.
ESPN.Com has the following USC newcomers listed as players who could make an immediate impact–OG Toa Lobendahn, WR/DB Adoree Jackson, WR JuJu Smith and DT Delvon Simmons
Fresno State is a 20-plus point underdog against the Trojans on August, 30.