TIME: Saturday, 2:30 p.m. (CST)
SITE: Los Angeles, Calif.
STADIUM: Memorial Coliseum
SERIES: USC leads the series with a 5-1-1 record. The teams met last year at TCF Bank Stadium where the Trojans came away on top, 32-21. The Gophers' lone win in the series came in a 25-19 victory at Memorial Stadium in 1955.
RECORD: Minnesota (0-0, 0-0 Big Ten), No. 25 Southern Cal (0-0, 0-0 Pac-10)
"I would be shocked if we're overconfident. We haven't done anything. There's so many guys who have never played a snap. We don't have, this isn't like the old days where guys are coming back after All-American seasons."– USC head coach Lane Kiffin on whether his team will be overconfident heading into Saturday's game against Minnesota.
"I'd say a lot more discipline that Coach Kill and his staff have instilled in us players. You see guys are staring to buy into this program and we believe in Coach Kill a lot." – Minnesota quarterback MarQueis Gray when asked why the Gophers are a better team this year.
"Well, they're USC. They've got great tradition, they're going to have 500 tailbacks lined up there that all can play." – Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill on what stands out about USC.
KEYS TO THE GAME:
-- If the Gophers want to win on Saturday they will need the keep the game close in the second half. Last time Minnesota faced the Trojans, the Gophers were still in the game in th fourth quarter. If Minnesota goes down a couple scores early, dint expect a big comeback late. As long as the gophers can keep pace with the high-powered Trojan offensive attack, they have a shot to slip out of California with the victory.
The key for the Gopher offense will be to establish a consistent passing attack early. USC head coach Lane Kiffen has made it clear that he will stack the box to force MarQueis Gray to throw the ball. If Gray can get into a rhythm throwing the ball, he should soften up the defense for the Minnesota rushing attack.
-- On defense, the key for the Trojans will be to pressure quarterback MarQueis Gray and make keep him from extending plays with his athleticism. "You got to hit him," USC safety T.J. McDonald said about Gray. "You got to punish him. You can't give him any second chances to get to the open field. No quarterback wants to get hit. If we hit him enough, we'll be all right." If the Trojans can suffocate Gray and force him play with-in the pocket, he could struggle with only one experienced difference-maker at wide receiver to throw to.
Offensively, USC needs to keep it simple and get off to a fast start. The Trojans have the weapons on offense to put points on the board early, starting with quarterback Matt Barkley. "[He's a] first round draft pick," Jerry Kill said of Barkley. "He's as good as some of the guys that came out this year. He's a good player." If Minnesota struggles to pressure the quarterback like last season, the 6-foot-2, 220-pound Barkley will have time hit the Trojans' playmakers for big gains.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
-- RB Lamonte Edwards #32 – After redshirting as a freshman, Lamonte Edwards made a move up the depth chart this fall, and currently sits as the No. 2 runningback on the roster. Edwards, whom head coach Jerry Kill describes as a "hard nosed, tough running back", should get numerous carries against USC in his first colligate game. The 6-foot-2, 215-pounder should be most effective attacking the middle of the Trojan defense where he can use his size and strength to fight for tough yards.
-- RT Jimmy Gjere #76 – Like Edwards, the massive 6-foot-7, 315-pound right tackle will be playing in his first career game for the Maroon and Gold. Gjere will be tested by speedy defensive end Nick Perry who recorded 7 ½ tackles for loss, including four sacks. If Gjere wins the battle against Perry and can seal off the right side of the line, it will ease the transition back to quarterback for MarQueis Gray.
-- SS Kim Royston #3 – The sixth-year senior will be playing his first game since suffering a broken leg in early 2010. Royston, who tallied 86 tackles for Minnesota in 2009, will bring hardened leadership and playmaking ability to a Gophers' secondary that will be tested by Matt Barkley on Saturday. "We need him to stay healthy and we need him to play well," coach Jerry Kill said of Royston. "There's no question that he's an important cog in what we do, certainly the back end."
-- WR Robert Woods #2 – Gopher fans will likely remember Woods as the fleet-footed freshman slicing through a gaping hole on a kick return, and gliding his way into the TCF Bank end zone last season—crushing all hope for an upset victory. Woods continued making explosive plays all year and was showered with awards, including Pac-10 Offensive Freshman of the Year, for his incredible first season. He had a team-best 65 receptions for 792 yards and six touchdowns for the Trojans last year. The 6-foot-1, 180-is a threat to score every time he touches the football.
-- CB Nickell Robey #21 – The diminutive 5-foot-8, 165-pound Robey struggled early last season as teams preyed on his lack of size and inexperience, but he improved each game and ended up with a team-high four interceptions. On Saturday, Robey will be tested when he lines up against talented 6-foot-3, 211-pound Da'Jon McKnight. Will Roby be able to handle the size and strength of Minnesota's go-to wide receiver?
-- SS T.J. McDonald #7 – The 6-foot-3, 205-pound headhunter lead the USC defense in total tackles last season with 89 tackles, including three for losses from his safety position. The Trojans may line up the junior safety closer to the line of scrimmage on early downs to try and counter Minnesota's strength of running the football.
Grant Erickson contributed to this report.