USC Skill Position StartersThe Trojans had been rolling on offense until last week's face plant at Oregon State, managing just seven points and 255 yards. Still, under first-year coach and playcaller Lane Kiffin, USC has been balanced – 250 yards passing and 192 yards rushing per game – and averaging 32.6 points per game, though injured quarterback Matt Barkley has been responsible for 27 of the team's 48 touchdowns.
Quarterback #16 Mitch Mustain – The nation's best-known backup, Mustain hasn't started a college game since going 8-0 as a true freshman at Arkansas. Largely limited to holding on field goals and extra points this season, Mustain completed 8 of 17 passes for 60 yards in relief of Barkley at Oregon State, though Kiffin qualified his performance by saying, "You can't put a guy in a much worse situation," entering the game trailing 20-0.
Running Back #26 Marc Tyler – An unlikely opening day starter, Tyler has at times recaptured the form that made him an elite recruit at Westlake Village (Calif.) Oaks Christian before he suffered a compound leg fracture in the playoffs. The redshirt junior has three 100-yard rushing games and scored a team-high nine touchdowns, but reinjured his left ankle against the Beavers.
Fullback #31 Stanley Havili – The Trojans' most versatile offensive weapon, the redshirt senior can truly do it all and has carved out a place as perhaps the nation's finest fullback. Havili serves as the no-huddle running back (164 yards rushing, one touchdown and a 6.8 yards per carry average) but is equally adept at opening holes in the run game. He is also third on the team in receptions and receiving yards with 29 catches for 360 yards and two touchdowns.
Wide Receiver #13 Robert Woods – Possessing elite speed and a tireless work ethic, the true freshman is the kind of player any coach would want to build a program around. Woods almost single-handedly beat Stanford with 224 yards receiving and three touchdowns in his breakout performance. The Irish will also have to take him into account on kickoffs, where Woods is averaging nearly 26 yards per return.
Wide Receiver #83 Ronald Johnson – The speedy ‘RoJo' has become more of a possession receiver this season and has topped 100 yards just once. Still, with eight receiving touchdowns to his credit this year, the senior is more than capable of burning the opposition at any time. Johnson also ranks seventh nationally in punt returns.
Tight End #40 Rhett Ellison – The son of national and Super Bowl champion linebacker Riki Gray, Ellison has proven a solid contributor as a blocker and receiver, with 14 catches for 180 yards and two touchdowns.
Key ReservesThe running back position should be in flux all week depending on health, ball security and practice performance.
Quarterback #7 Matt Barkley – The sophomore has been much improved in his second season as starter, throwing for 25 touchdowns against 10 interceptions. Barkley suffered a high ankle sprain at the end of the first half against the Beavers and seems questionable at best to start.
Running Back #21 Allen Bradford – It's been a roller coaster for Bradford, who was expected to start entering fall camp, only to suffer an injury and be passed by Tyler. However, he then rushed for 438 yards and three touchdowns in a three-game span only to be benched because of ball security issues. Supremely talented, Bradford is capable of a huge game if he can avoid fumbles.
Running Back #2 C.J. Gable – The lone bright spot in the 36-7 loss at Oregon State, the redshirt senior rushed for 57 yards and a touchdown. Gable has played the good soldier this season and could be rewarded with his most substantial playing time on Senior Day.
Running Back #28 Dillon Baxter – Ruled ineligible for a golf cart ride across campus, the talented but immature freshman should be reinstated by this weekend. Whether Kiffin will actually play him is another matter altogether.
USC Offensive LineWhen they show up, the Trojans can manhandle any team in college football. However, as demonstrated at Oregon State, they can also pull an unexpected disappearing act.
Left Tackle #75 Matt Kalil – His brother Ryan was a star center for the Trojans, but Matt comes in off a horrible penalty-filled game against the Beavers. He'll have to be at his best this week to contain Ethan Johnson.
Center #61 Kristofer O'Dowd – While never living up to his billing as a top recruit, largely because of injuries, O'Dowd has proven to be a smart and tough center who will make his 35th career start on Saturday.
Right Guard #78 Khaled Holmes – Brother of former USC tight end Alex Holmes, the former Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei standout has shown a nice combination of intelligence and aggression in 11 starts. He could be ticketed for center next year.
Right Tackle #70 Tyron Smith – Smith looks more like a tight end or power forward than an offensive tackle, but don't be fooled: he has the speed and power to stifle any defensive end. Smith could be a candidate to declare early for the NFL draft after this season.