Game Preview: No. 14 USC Football Debuts Lincoln Riley Era Against Rice
Who: USC vs Rice
Where: Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
When: 3 p.m. PST on Pac-12 Network
All-time series: USC leads, 3-0-1
Keys to the game:
Trust the training
USC's coaching staff has stressed that practices this fall have been designed to be harder than games. If that's the case, then the Trojans should rely on what their coaches have taught them and don't let the moment become too big in the Coliseum Saturday.
"We said we're gonna play the game twice before we play on Saturday," defensive coordinator Alex Grinch said Wednesday. "You've got to get your pads ready. You cannot practice slow, then play fast."
Force the Owls to rely on their passing game
"Rice has been a run-heavy offense," former USC quarterback Cody Kessler said on the Victory Podcast. "They have been more of a 'pound-the-rock' team, run the clock down, stay in possession of the football."
Rice offensive coordinator Marques Tuiasosopo has expressed he would like to see the Owls get the passing game more involved into their game plan, but it is not a traditional strength for the team.
"They had one of the lowest-ranked passing offenses last year in their conference," Kessler explained. "I think they only averaged just above 200 yards a game."
If USC's defense can shut down Rice's run game, the Trojans can capitalize on a weakness of the Owls.
Utilize weapons on USC's offense
It's no secret that the Trojans are loaded with talent on the offensive side of the ball. While starting quarterback Caleb Williams has gelled with USC's skill players in practice, it will be important to establish chemistry early on in a game-like environment.
Williams shared his goals for his Trojan debut earlier this week:
"Be decisive. Get the ball to our playmakers, get the ball out of my hands. Make the job easier for the offensive linemen and make sure I'm putting us in the right positions to stay on the field as long as we can."