No. 15 USC Football Opens 2021 Season Against Mountain West Champion San José State
*No. 15 USC opens its 2021 football season with a Labor Day weekend non-league home game against defending Mountain West Conference champion San José State on Pac-12 Network...and there will be fans in the Coliseum stands once again!
*This will be just the fifth time that Troy has met the in-state Spartans (the last time was 2009).
*USC has lost only once in 36 encounters against MWC teams.
*The Trojans have captured their last 13 season openers in the Coliseum, dating to 1997.
*Sixteen starters (and the punter and kicker) return from a USC team that won its first 5 games in the COVID-19-shortened 2020 season and played in the Pac-12 Championship Game as the South Division representative. The Trojans also have a Top 10 recruiting class (with the nation's No. 1 signee) and 10 collegiate transfers. USC's offense (416.7 total yards per game in 2020, including 319.3 passing and 33.3 points) has its top passer and rusher from 2020 along with 8 players who caught a pass and 4 starting linemen. Two-year starting QB Kedon Slovis has completed 70% of his career passes for nearly 5,500 yards and 50 TDs and is a Heisman nominee after an All-Pac-12 first team season in 2020 when he led the nation in completions. WR Drake London, another 2-year starter, has 72 career receptions with 8 TDs, including 33 catches last fall. TB Vavae Malepeai is a 1,000-yard career rusher. Troy's offensive line is led by 3-year starting guard Andrew Vorhees and 2-year starting center Brett Neilon. The Trojan defense, which last season averaged 2.7 takeaways a game, has 15 of its top 19 tacklers back from 2020. OLB Drake Jackson has 17 career tackles for loss (with 7.5 sacks). S Isaiah Pola-Mao has 121 tackles and 5 interceptions in his career, while CB Chris Steele has 9 career deflections. Returning ILB starter Kana'i Mauga has 116 career tackles. DL Nick Figueroa topped Troy in tackles for loss (7) and sacks (3.5) last year, while DL Tuli Tuipulotu was a Freshman All-American second teamer in 2020. Aussie P Ben Griffiths' 46.4-yard punting average last season was the highest by a Trojan since 2003, while PK Parker Lewis was 20th nationally in field goals. SNP Damon Johnson was a 2020 Mannelly Award finalist. Head coach Clay Helton has won nearly 67% of his games at USC, including a Rose Bowl, a Pac-12 Championship Game and 2 South
*San José State has a game under its belt, coming off an easy home win over Southern Utah of the FCS. Head coach Brent Brennan, the 2020 Mountain West Coach of the Year, has 19 returning starters (10 on defense). QB Nick Starkel, formerly of Texas A&M and Arkansas, threw for 2,174 yards and 17 TDs with 7 picks last year (64.2% completions). SJSU's top 2 runners from last fall are back in Tyler Nevens (515 yards, 3 scores last fall) and Kairee Robinson (313 yards, 19 catches). TE Derrick Deese Jr., the son of the former Trojan, is the Spartans' top returning pass catcher (20 grabs, 5 TDs last year). Four-year starting left tackle Jack Snyder, an All-MWC first teamer in 2020, anchors the Spartan line. The defense features a trio of 2020 All-MWC first teamers: DLs Cade Hall (the league's Defensive Player of the Year in 2020 when he was second nationally in sacks) and Viliami Fehoko along with LB Kyle Harmon (team-best 78 tackles in 2020).
*USC will unveil several game day fan enhancements at the Coliseum, including making beer and wine available to the public for the first time since 2004. However, due to the on-going pandemic, fans at the Coliseum must wear masks per a county health directive and, for the opener, there will be no on-campus tailgating allowed.
*There will be on-field salutes for USC's defending NCAA champion women's water polo team and the men's basketball team that reached the Elite 8 last season. Watch, too, for a pre-game flyover.
*USC's highly-ranked men's water poloists open 2021 on Saturday morning with a home doubleheader.
*USC is ranked No. 15 in the current AP sports media poll and 14th in the USA Today coaches poll. San José State is not ranked.
*USC leads its brief series against San José State, 4-0, with all the games held in the Coliseum.
*The teams last met in 2009, when USC freshman QB Matt Barkley completed 79% of his passes for 233 yards in a historic debut and Trojan tailbacks--behind TB Joe McKnight's 145 yards--ran for 6 touchdowns as No. 4 USC began its season by demolishing San José State, 56-3. Barkley became the first USC true freshman to ever start a season opener at quarterback.
*The series' first meeting occurred in 1995 as No. 7 USC opened its season with a 45-7 home win over the Spartans. The second meeting was in 2000, as the No. 9 Trojans overcame a 12-point deficit midway through the fourth quarter by scoring 22 unanswered points to beat the Spartans, 34-24, in USC's 500th game in the Coliseum. The third meeting came in new USC head coach Pete Carroll's debut in 2001, as TB Sultan McCullough ran for 3 touchdowns to lead the Trojans to a 21-10 season-opening victory (McCullough rushed for 167 yards on 25 carries, the most rushing yards by a Trojan in a season opener since Marcus Allen had 210 yards versus Tennessee in 1981).
VERSUS MOUNTAIN WEST
*USC is 32-1-1 (.956) against current Mountain West Conference teams (not including 2 wins vacated due to NCAA penalty; original record: 34-1-1, .958), last losing to a MWC squad in 1992 (to Fresno State), the same year it tied San Diego State. The Trojans have won their last 19 games against the MWC (not including 2 wins vacated due to NCAA penalty; original record: last 21 games). USC's most recent game against a current MWC foe was Fresno State in 2019, a 31-23 season-opening Trojan home victory.
*Troy is 8-0 versus Hawaii (not including 1 win vacated due to NCAA penalty; original record: 9-0), 6-0 versus Utah State, 5-0 versus Nevada, 4-0 against San José State, 2-0 versus UNLV, 2-0-1 against San Diego State, 1-0 against Colorado State and Wyoming and 3-1 against Fresno State (not including 1 win vacated due to NCAA penalty; original record: 4-1).
*On the other hand, San José State is 45-153-2 (.230) against current Pac-12 teams, with the most recent meeting being a 54-16 loss at Utah in 2017.
*USC's record in all season openers is 95-24-8 (.780), with 36 shutout victories. In season openers at home, the Trojans are 67-16-7 (.783), including wins in their last 13 dating to 1997 (does not include 1 win vacated due to NCAA penalty; original record: 96-24-8, .781 overall).
*USC's record for home openers is 99-19-7 (.820) (does not include 1 home and 1 road win vacated due to NCAA penalty; original record: 100-19-7, .821 at home).
*USC has a 186-53-8 (.769) all-time record while playing in the month of September (does not include 3 wins vacated due to NCAA penalty; original record: 189-53-8, .772).
*USC has a 452-141-27 (.751) all-time record in the Coliseum since the stadium opened in 1923 (not including 6 wins vacated due to NCAA penalty; original record: 458-141-27, .753). USC's 626 games played in the Coliseum (including the 6 vacated wins) is the third most that any school has played in its home stadium (behind Georgia Tech's 707 in Bobby Dodd Stadium and Tennessee's 628 in Neyland Stadium).
USC-SAN JOSÉ STATE CONNECTIONS
*USC has 7 players who previously attended a Bay Area school: DL De'jon Benton (Pittsburg HS), OL Andres Dewerk (Los Gatos HS), TE Grant Jones (De La Salle HS), TE Erik Krommenhoek (Monte Vista HS), TE Sean Mahoney (Archbishop Mitty HS), OL Jalen McKenzie (Clayton Valley HS) and WR Danny Ryan (St. Ignatius HS).
*USC TE Josh Falo's brother, Nate, was a defensive tackle at San José State (2013-15).
*USC cornerbacks coach Donte Williams spent 3 seasons (2013-15) at San José State, coaching the cornerbacks the first season and serving as the secondary coach and recruiting coordinator the final 2 seasons.
*USC wide receivers coach Keary Colbert's cousin, Josh Oliver, was a tight end at San José State from 2015 to 2018.
*USC TE Lake McRee celebrates his 19th birthday on Saturday (Sept. 4).
*San José State WR Trevon Sidney played at USC from 2016 to 2018. 91).
*San José State TE Derrick Deese Jr. is the son of former USC offensive lineman Derrick Deese (1990-91)
*San José State outside linebackers coach Rob Christoff is the son of former USC assistant coach A.J. Christoff (2000).
*San José State men's basketball assistant coach David Miller is the son of former USC men's basketball assistant Dave Miller.
*USC, which for the first time since 2009 will play all its regular season games on Saturdays, has a demanding 2021 schedule. Besides playing 9 Pac-12 opponents, Troy's 3 non-conference foes were ranked in the final AP Top 25 poll last year. The Trojans, however, do play 7 of their 12 contests at home in the Coliseum.
*USC opens in the Coliseum on Sept. 4 of Labor Day weekend against defending Mountain West champion San José State. The teams last met in 2009. The Trojans remain at home the following week to start Pac-12 play with a visit from Stanford on Sept. 11. It will be the Pac-12's first game of the 2021 campaign. USC then travels to Washington State on Sept. 18, its first trip to Pullman since 2017. Troy returns home on Sept. 25 to host Oregon State. The teams have not played since 2018 (and not in the Coliseum since 2017). The Trojans begin October play by traveling to Colorado on Oct. 2, then are back in the Coliseum on Oct. 9 to battle Utah. Following a bye week, USC returns to action on Oct. 23 when it goes to South Bend for its traditional intersectional clash with Notre Dame, a 2020 College Football Playoff semifinalist. Arizona comes to the Coliseum on Oct. 30 for USC's Homecoming game before the Trojans embark on a two-game road trip to open up November, playing at Arizona State on Nov. 6 and at California on Nov. 13. USC concludes its regular season with a pair of home contests, first facing crosstown rival UCLA on Nov. 20 and then independent BYU on Nov. 27 of Thanksgiving weekend. It will be the first time since 2009 when it played Arizona that USC will end its regular season against a team other than UCLA or Notre Dame and the first since 1999 (when it hosted Louisiana Tech) doing so against a non-conference foe other than Notre Dame. The Pac-12 Football Championship Game will be on Friday, Dec. 3, in Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, Nev.
*Troy is coming off consecutive seasons where improvement was evident on and off the field. After a bounce-back 8-win season in 2019, USC started off 5-0 in last year's pandemic-shortened campaign and won the Pac-12 South Division title before falling by a touchdown in the Pac-12 Championship Game.