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No. 14 USC Football Kicks Off Lincoln Riley Era With 2022 Season Opener vs. Rice

Aug 29, 2022

THEMES

  • No. 14 USC kicks off the 2022 season and the Lincoln Riley Era with a Labor Day Weekend non-conference home game against Rice from Conference USA on Pac-12 Networks.
     
  • This will be just the fourth time that Troy has met the Owls, with the last time being in 1971. It's the first time the teams have met in the Coliseum since 1948.
     
  • USC has never lost a game to a Conference USA team, with just one 7-7 tie against Rice in 1947.
     
  • The Trojans have captured their last 14 season openers in the Coliseum, dating to 1997.

MOST UNIQUE ROSTER IN USC HISTORY

  • Head coach Lincoln Riley continues to say that "this is the most unique roster in the history of USC football"... and he's correct! The Trojans only return 71 players from the 2021 squad, including 37 lettermen. Five starters are back on the offensive side of the ball and three on defense. The offensive line will be led by three returning veterans: 3-year starting C Brett Neilon, 1-year starting LT Courtland Ford and 4-year starting LG Andrew Vorhees, who has collected a plethora of preseason first team All-American honors. Also on the offensive side of the ball, 1-year starting WR Gary Bryant Jr. returns with 51 career receptions and 7 TDs, including 44 catches last fall. WR Tahj Washington, another 1-year starter for Troy (who boasted a Freshman All-American season at Memphis in 2020), returns with 100 career receptions for 1,377 yards and 7 TDs, including 54 receptions for 602 yards last season. He was second on the team in receptions behind 2021 first round draft pick Drake London. On the defensive side of the ball, 2-year starting DL Tuli Tuipulotu returns as the veteran leader. He has 70 tackles, including 10 for losses, with 7.5 sacks, 2 deflections, a fumble recovery for a TD and 2 forced fumbles in his career while appearing in 18 games, with 15 starts. Also returning are previous starters DL Stanley Ta'ufo'ou (19 tackles, including 1.5 for a loss in his career) and ILB Ralen Goforth (with a career 105 tackles with 4 for loss).
     
  • USC's use of the transfer portal regularly made news in the offseason as Troy collected the No. 1-ranked transfer class in the nation comprised of 24 transfers. The transfer class was highlighted by 2022 Heisman hopeful QB Caleb Williams, a 2021 True Freshman All-American at Oklahoma who completed 136- of-211 passes (64.5%) for 1,912 yards and 21 TDs, and the reigning Biletnikoff winner WR Jordan Addison, a 2021 consensus All-American first teamer out of Pittsburgh, who had 100 receptions (a school record) for 1,593 yards (15.9 avg) with 17 TDs (tied for most in the nation) last season. Other notable transfers include RB Travis Dye from Oregon (3,111 career yards [fifth most in Oregon football history] on 521 carries with 21 TDs), RB Austin Jones from Stanford (1,155 career yards on 278 carries with 12 TDs), WR Mario Williams, a 2021 ESPN True Freshman All-American from Oklahoma (35 career receptions for 380 yards with 4 TDs), WR Brenden Rice from Colorado (27 career receptions for 419 yards with 5 TDs), WR Terrell Bynum from Washington (65 career receptions for 934 yards with 6 TDs), RUSH Romello Height of Auburn (18 career tackles, including 3 for loss), ILB Shane Lee of Alabama (96 career tackles, including 8 for loss), DB Mekhi Blackmon of Colorado (87 career tackles, including 3 for loss) and DB Bryson Shaw of Ohio State (62 tackles with 0.5 for loss).
     
  • The Trojans welcomed 11 true freshmen to the team including highly touted DB Domani Jackson, RB Raleek Brown and WR CJ Williams, all from Mater Dei HS.

RICE SCOUTING REPORT

  • After going 4-8 in 2021, head coach Mike Bloomgren returns as Rice's head football coach for his fifth season. The Owls return 13 starters from the 2021 season, 6 on offense and 7 on defense. At the helm will be QB Wiley Green, who was named the starter during camp (it will be the third time in his career starting a season opener). He has completed 158-of-295 passes for 1,849 yards and 11 TDs and 10 INTs. Green lost the starting job multiple times in his career due to injury. The Owls also have the option of TJ McMahon at QB (12-of-20 with 2 TDs for 191 yards and 1 INT), who was a JUCO transfer in 2021. Rice's leading rusher, RB Ari Broussard, returns (569 yards in 2021 with 3 TDs) as well as RB Cameron Montgomery (256 yards and 2 TDs in 2021). Rice only reached 150 rushing yards four times last season and hopes to improve that stat this year. The Owls' No. 1 receiving target, Jake Bailey, transferred to SMU, so WR Cedric Patterson (38 rec. for 583 yards and 6 TDs), Tulsa transfer WR Sam Crawford ( 114 rec. for 1,623 yards and 10 TDs), WR Brad Rozner (57 rec. for 800 yards and 5 TDs) and former Nebraska QB and recently converted WR Luke McCaffrey (who led all receivers with 7 rec. and 98 yards in the spring game) will look to step in. Rice was No. 10 in the nation for time of possession in 2021 as it held onto the ball for an average of 33:14 per game. Leading the Owls' 3-4 defense is starting DE and Outland Trophy Watchlist member Ikenna Enechukwu, who returns after leading the team in sacks in 2021 (5-30 yards) and tallied 42 tackles last year (12.5 for loss). After returning from a season-ending injury prior to the 2021 season, DL De'Braylon Carroll returns to the field as a force in the trenches after having a breakout freshman year in 2020. Former OL Izeya Floyd joins the defensive line and looks to make an immediate impact. After losing four-year starting ILB Antonio Montero to the transfer portal, ILB Myron Morrison (35 career tackles with 2 for loss) will look to fill those shoes. Rice employs its outside linebacker hybrid positions with Kenneh Orji (100 career tackles with 9 for loss and 2 sacks) at RUSH and Treshawn Chamberlain (156 career tackles with 6.5 for loss and 2 sacks) at VIPER, a linebacker/safety hybrid role. The Owls ranked 123rd in the nation in pass defense in 2021, which was a major drop-off from their 26th overall ranking in 2020, and Rice is hoping to stop opponents through the air this year with a more mature secondary. USC can expect looks from DB George Nyakwol (156 career tackles with 5.5 for loss and 2 sacks) and DB Gabe Taylor (61 career tackles with 1 for loss).

RANKINGS

  • USC is ranked No. 14 in the current AP sports media poll and 15th in the USA Today coaches poll. Rice is not ranked.

SERIES

  • The two teams last met in 1971 when the Trojans defeated the Owls 24-0 on a rainy day in Houston, Texas.
     
  • USC leads its brief series against Rice, 2-0-1.
     
  • The series' first meeting occured in 1947 in the Coliseum in front of 64,231 fans and it resulted in a 7-7 tie. The teams met again in the Coliseum the next season, a 7-0 USC victory.

 

VERSUS CONFERENCE USA

  • USC is 3-0-1 against current Conference USA teams.
     
  • The Trojans have not played a Conference USA team snce 1999 when they hosted Louisiana Tech in the Coliseum and won 45-19.
     
  • On the other hand, Rice is 11-11-2 (.500) against current Pac-12 teams, with the most recent meeting being a 62-7 loss to Stanford in 2017.

OPENERS

  • USC's record in all season openers is 96-24-8 (.781), with 36 shutout victories. In season openers at home, the Trojans are 68-16-7 (.786), including wins in their last 14 dating to 1997 (does not include 1 win vacated due to NCAA penalty; original record: 97-24-8, .783 overall).
     
  • USC's record for home openers is 100-19-7 (.821) (does not include 1 home and 1 road win vacated due to NCAA penalty; original record: 101-19-7, .823 at home).

IN SEPTEMBER

  • 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).
     

IN COLISEUM

  • USC has a 454-146-27 (.746) all-time record in the Coliseum since the stadium opened in 1923 (not including 6 wins vacated due to NCAA penalty; original record: 460-146-27, .748). USC's 633 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 713 in Bobby Dodd Stadium and Tennessee's 636 in Neyland Stadium).

USC-RICE CONNECTIONS

  • Rice offensive coordinator Marques Tuiasosopo had a previous stop at USC. In 2014 and 2015, he was USC's associate head coach for offense and the tight ends coach.
     
  • USC has 2 football players from Houston, Texas, where Rice is located: TE Malcolm Epps and DB Xamarion Gordon.
     
  • DB Xavion Alford received his All-American Bowl invitation at a presentation at Rice.
     
  • USC DL Tuli Tuipulotu celebrates his 20th birthday on Saturday (Sept. 3).

FULL GAME NOTES (PDF)