Fresno State Football: First Look At The USC Trojans

Fresno State Football: First Look At The USC Trojans

Fresno State

Fresno State Football: First Look At The USC Trojans

By


Fresno State Football: First Look At The USC Trojans


The Bulldogs will take aim at toppling the Trojans when they visit the storied Coliseum in September.


Contact/Follow @MattK_FS and @MWCwire

One of the most anticipated games of the year.

Fresno State Football: First Look at 2022 Non-conference Opponents

Cal Poly | Oregon State | USC | UConn

The Fresno State Bulldogs will head to southern California in Week 3 for another chance at taking down its blue-blood neighbor, the USC Trojans.

After years of floundering under Clay Helton, the Trojans believe they’re back in business with a new head coach, a new star quarterback, and legions of offensive playmakers. The ‘Dogs, of course, have their own high expectations heading into 2022, so will the sparks fly as they usually do when these two teams meet?

Location: Los Angeles, California

Conference: Pac-12

Series History: USC leads the all-time series, 4-1.

2021 Record: 4-8 (3-6 Pac-12)

Head Coach: Lincoln Riley (first year with Trojans, 55-10 overall). One of the off-season’s biggest stunners was Riley’s departure from Oklahoma in late November, a move that stunned an entire state into some very strange theatrics. Given that the Sooners had just wrapped up yet another ten-win season, however, the whiplash can be forgiven.

Key Players

Caleb Williams, QB

The most ballyhooed of USC’s transfer portal pickups, Williams had a fine freshman year after taking over for Spencer Rattler as Oklahoma’s starter. He appeared in 11 total games and started the last seven contests for the Sooners, completing 64.5% of his 211 pass attempts for 9.1 yards per attempt and 21 touchdowns, offset by a 1.9% interception rate. He also added 435 rushing yards and six touchdowns as a runner, so he’ll be a shot in the arm for the Trojans offense.

Jordan Addison, WR

Addison had a monster year for the Pitt Panthers in 2021, winning the Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s top pass catcher with 100 receptions, 1,593 receiving yards, and 17 receiving touchdowns, the last of which was tied for the most among all FBS players. While the Trojans will definitely have plenty of options for Williams to throw to, Addison should be difficult to stop yet again.

Tuli Tuipulotu, DT

After making a trio of starts in 2020, Tuipulotu entrenched himself on the Trojans defensive line after starting all 12 games last year, collecting 42 total tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles, and a team-best 5.5 sacks. For all that, the Hawthorne, California native earned a spot on the first-team all-conference defense and put the rest of the Pac-12 on notice as a rising star.

Travis Dye, RB

Dye was better than ever for the Oregon Ducks last season, posting 1,673 all-purpose yards at 6.5 yards per play and scoring 18 total touchdowns en route to an all-conference honorable mention. While Williams and Addison have generated most of the headlines among the new arrivals, it isn’t inconceivable that Dye reaches another new level with so much attention focused elsewhere.

Nick Figueroa, DE

Figueroa’s 2021 season wasn’t what he hoped it would be, as injuries limited him to nine games and five starts, but he’s a reasonable bet to continue making an impact if he returns to health. Though he only had 16 tackles and 3.5 tackles for loss, he put up seven TFLs and 3.5 sacks during 2020 and could set the edge as well as anyone in the Pac-12.

Overview:

Offense

Being merely okay spelled doom for USC’s Air Raid offense last year, when they finished 59th nationally in yards per play, 56th in points per drive, and 31st in available yards percentage earned per drive. With so many new playmakers in tow, it now falls to Riley to put it all together as effectively as he did most years in Norman.

Williams, Dye, and Addison, of course, will be major players, but the Trojans look positively stacked here on paper beyond that trio. Austin Jones also transferred in from Stanford, where he had 378 rushing yards and two touchdowns last year, and Darwin Barlow (62 carries, 289 yards, two TDs) also returns. USC is also lousy with pass catchers, too, with Tahj Washington (54 catches, 602 yards, one TD) and Gary Bryant Jr. (44-579-7) now joined by Colorado transfer Brendan Rice (), Oklahoma transfer Mario Williams, and Washington transfer Terrell Bynum. The main challenge might be that there’s only one ball to go around.

The offensive line also brings back four starters from last year, including guard Andrew Voorhees, whose 90.1 PFF grade ranked second among all FBS players at his position, sophomore left tackle Courtland Ford, and senior center Brett Neilon. If everything comes together as envisioned, this attack might be able to score nearly at will.

Defense

Will USC be able to stop opponents consistently, though? They couldn’t in 2021, when they ranked 112th among FBS teams by yards per play allowed, 109th in points per drive allowed, and 104th in available yards percentage allowed. New defensive coordinator Alex Grinch will have a big project on his hands turning that performance around.

To that end, the Trojans had a Utah State-like aggression in the transfer portal, bringing in Mekhi Blackmon (Colorado), Solomon Byrd (Wyoming), Eric Gentry (Arizona State), Romello Height (Auburn), Shane Lee (Alabama), Latrell McCutchin (Oklahoma), and Bryson Shaw (Ohio State) to restock the proverbial cupboard. It’s a gambit with a track record of success, but that doesn’t equal a given so there could be some track meets that the Trojans will have to win to meet its ceiling.

Early Prediction

Fresno State looks like it will have the offensive talent to push a rebuilt Trojans defense, but even a good Bulldogs defense could have trouble containing a wildly talented USC offense. If that sounds like this game could have more than a few shades of their 2005 classic, well…

USC 49, Fresno State 40

Latest

More MWWire