Here are five storylines to watch for the USC-Idaho game on Saturday at the Coliseum:
1. Continue turnover emphasis: USC coach Steve Sarkisian wants to see his defense create 30 or more turnovers this season, and the Trojans were able to get four in the opener last week against Arkansas State. With the Vandals, a team that threw 20 interceptions last year, coming to town, it stands to reason that there will be opportunities for USC to have another successful day in that department.
2. Apply pressure: One of the keys to accomplishing item No. 1 on this list will be the ability to apply pressure up front, as the Trojans will look to rotate as many as 10 players on the defensive line. USC got only one sack last week, facing a quarterback who moved well in and out of the pocket. Keep an eye on the rush end spot, with Scott Felix, Jabari Ruffin and Porter Gustin being turned loose in an attempt to get into the Idaho backfield.
3. Kessler numbers: It says something about where Cody Kessler is at in his career that he can complete 19 of 26 passes for 236 yards and four touchdowns last week, and it flies largely under the radar as just another average day. It’s not that Sarkisian and offensive coordinator Clay Helton will be looking to increase those numbers simply to keep Kessler in the early-season conversation for end-of-season awards, but don’t be surprised if his stats involve even more robust numbers this week.
4. Pick up the pace: One of the few critiques that Sarkisian found with a 55-6 victory last week was the number of offensive plays the Trojans ran. USC ran only 64 total plays, a number that is far lower than the target Sarkisian prefers, which is in the 90-100 play range. The Trojans were very efficient in those 64 plays with an average of 8 yards per play, but Sarkisian mentioned several times this week that he wants to pick up the offensive tempo and see that number increase.
5. Block out the Sun: Idaho will mark the second consecutive USC opponent from the Sun Belt Conference, and the second consecutive week that the Trojans will be projected to come away with a relatively comfortable victory. It is one of those games in which it’s important for the players to block out that kind of thinking and let the results speak for themselves. As former USC coach John McKay used to say, “If we play our best and they play their best, we’ll win.”