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Five things to watch: Hawaii game

By Mark Saxon

1. Making Moniz miserable: Hawaii receivers raved about the improvement in quarterback Bryant Moniz in fall camp. The former walk-on and part-time pizza delivery guy worked on his arm strength in a Honolulu boxing gym. Accuracy has always been his primary asset. He has good receivers in Greg Salas and slotback Kealoha Pilares and the run-and-shoot is one of those college offenses that USC's Tampa-2 defense wasn't really built to defend. The Trojans' best hope is to get a powerful pass rush to overwhelm Hawaii's rebuilt offensive line and put Moniz on the run.

2. Barkley, a year later: His words suggested he felt more comfortable running the offense. Sophomore quarterback Matt Barkley's actions were a little more mixed, with a fair number of interceptions and plenty of stalled drives in both spring and fall camps. The Trojans already have one true freshman, Robert Woods, starting and others could contribute. If USC's offense proves mistake-prone, it could be an unconvincing start against a Hawaii defense that probably isn't very good.

3. Staying cool in the heat: The Trojans were penalized plentifully last season and, according to Lane Kiffin, visiting teams tend to lose their composure playing at Hawaii. Instilling discipline has been one of Kiffin's buzz words since he arrived in January. We'll see how well his players heed him. If the Trojans avoid silly penalties, they should be in good shape.

4. Avoiding an ambush: Kiffin has compared this game to Appalachian State's 2007 upset of Michigan. That might be a bit of a stretch, as would comparing it to USC's loss that year at the Coliseum to Stanford (a 41-point underdog). But there is the chance USC's players don't show much intensity against a middle-of-the-pack WAC team while playing in a vacation spot. The Trojans are 21-point favorites and have won all six meetings with the Warriors, but funny things happen in college football. USC fans wouldn't find it that amusing.

5. Running at will? The best reason for USC fans to breathe easy this week is what happened to Hawaii at the end of last season. Wisconsin rushed for 301 yards en route to a 51-10 victory that cost Hawaii a chance at a bowl game. With two starting guards returning in time for the game, there's no reason USC shouldn't be able to run the ball to good success Thursday night. Junior Marc Tyler is still a load at 218 pounds, but he's down 15 pounds from spring camp and moving better. When in doubt, the Trojans can return to their roots and pound the ball into a smaller team.