PREVIEW: WSU vs. No. 25 USC

USC (1-0) hosts Washington State (0-1) Saturday night in their home and Pac-12 conference opener. The Trojans are coming off a season opening win at Hawaii while the Cougars are trying to rebound from a loss at Auburn.

USC (1-0) is coming off a season opening 30-13 win over Hawaii last Thursday in Honolulu.

Just when you thought neither Trojan quarterback Cody Kessler nor Max Wittek performed well enough for USC head coach Lane Kiffin to name a starter, Kiffin in fact on Sunday did name a starter.

"I think it's very important to protect that position," Kiffin explained on Tuesday. "As soon as you start tearing apart that position, much what I think would have happened if I named a starter publicly, just you guys but people in school, what their families are hearing... you're so scrutinized at that position that you need to stay really positive with them because your whole team -- it's not just what they read, it's what they hear all the time from outside sources. So obviously the head coach dictates that by how he talks about the position, so that's just my philosophy.

"It simply was about how all the input would have come with 'This guy played this much and why is it this guy and his completion percentage ...and his throws downfield' - all the different things that would come about and I think the starter would've been scrutinized a lot and what is natural everybody would be talking about the backup and how he got a bad deal."

No, Kiffin would not crack and tell the media who the starter will be on Saturday against Washington State (0-1) but multiple sources have told FOX Sports that Kessler will be the guy.

Both quarterbacks played down the situation throughout the week of practice, saying their approach and preparation for Saturday's game hasn't changed.

"What he did is best for us," said Kessler. "Me and Max are in the know, we know what's going on because the decision is on our part, but at the same time he's trying to protect the team from this taking over the team and putting one main thing -- instead of focusing on the teams job and what the team has to do. We both are ready to play for this team.

"We're both at all times ready to play in this game," Wittek said. "We're both preparing that exact way. I take the mindset that I'm going to start and we enter every game with an air of confidence and we try to execute our gameplan."

The USC defense will face their greatest challenge yet from Washington State head coach Mike Leach and quarterback Connor Halliday. Halliday threw the ball 65 times in the Cougars loss last week at Auburn.

Needless to say, USC's defensive line will need to keep the pressure on Halliday and the secondary will need to have fresh legs.

"A quarterback like this and an offense like this, they're going to throw the ball a lot," Kiffin said. "They've done a great job of it over the years the other night down in a hostile environment so we're going to have to play the pass really well."

"Personally I look at it for our secondary to make a statement," safety Dion Bailey said. "We're going out there and playing against a team that is going to throw the ball 60-plus so we need to go out there and contest every single ball that's in the air, get our hands on every single ball, force some turnovers and prove that our secondary has come a lightyears from where it was the last couple of years. This is the game and the perfect time for us to put it on film and show the world."

This is the first time since 2010 the Trojans will face the Cougars, a team they've beat for the last decade.

You can catch all the action Saturday night on FOX Sports 1 at 7:30 PT.

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