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USC-Nevada Las Vegas: A look at how the teams match up

USC (0-0) vs. Nevada Las Vegas (0-0)

Saturday, 1 p.m., Coliseum. TV: Pac-12 Networks. Radio: 710.

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Marquee matchup

USC linebackers vs. Nevada Las Vegas quarterback Armani Rogers. USC is going to see a steady stream of quarterbacks this season who thrive in read-option attacks. Texas’ Sam Ehlinger, Arizona’s Khalil Tate, Utah’s Tyler Huntley and Notre Dame’s Brandon Wimbush may jump to mind quicker than Rogers, but it would be a mistake for the Trojans to overlook the sophomore. At 6 feet 5 and 225 pounds, Rogers is a load to tackle and will give USC’s linebacker corps, led by run-stopper Cameron Smith, an early test. Last season, Rogers rushed for 780 yards at a clip of 5.3 yards per carry and eight touchdowns. The biggest question mark going into this season for the Rebels is whether Rogers has improved enough as a passer to keep defenses honest. He completed just 52.4% of his passes in his first year as a starter.

Getting offensive

Nevada Las Vegas (427.1 ypg/28.8 ppg in 2017): With running back Lexington Thomas joining Rogers in the backfield — Thomas rushed for 1,336 yards and 17 touchdowns last season — USC will not be able to key on one player.

USC (484.1 ypg/32.6 ppg in 2017): True freshman quarterback JT Daniels will make his highly anticipated first start for the Trojans. No moment has seemed too big for him during fall camp. One of the main reasons he won the job was because he played his best during USC’s scrimmages, the first of which came at the Coliseum. The stats from that day: 10-for-12 passing for four touchdowns. The Trojans will try to take some pressure off with their running game. USC will ride the hot hand at running back, so it’s up to Aca’Cedric Ware and Stephen Carr to get going quickly.

Nevada Las Vegas quarterback Armani Rogers rushed for 780 yards at a clip of 5.3 yards per carry and eight touchdowns last season.
Nevada Las Vegas quarterback Armani Rogers rushed for 780 yards at a clip of 5.3 yards per carry and eight touchdowns last season. (Ethan Miller / Getty Images)

Getting defensive

Nevada Las Vegas (458.7 ypg/31.9 ppg allowed in 2018): The Rebels have seven starters back from 2017, including all three linebackers and free safety Dalton Baker, who had a team-high 99 tackles.

USC: (395.6 ypg/26.1 ppg allowed in 2017): Coach Clay Helton is expecting big things from his defense, which features proven depth at each level. Outside linebacker Porter Gustin has been cleared to play after a three-week recovery from meniscus surgery.

Something special

USC returns its entire group: punter Reid Budrovich, placekicker Chase McGrath, snapper Damon Johnson, holder Wyatt Schmidt, kickoff returner Velus Jones Jr. and punt returner Ajene Harris (although true freshman Amon-ra St. Brown will start this year at the position).

Of note

Two Trojans will be making their first starts in the secondary: redshirt freshman strong safety Isaiah Pola-Mao and redshirt freshman cornerback Greg Johnson.

Injury report

USC — Probable: outside linebacker Porter Gustin (knee), left tackle Austin Jackson (ankle). Questionable: center Toa Lobendahn (pectoral strain), tight end Josh Falo (hamstring). Doubtful: wide receiver Josh Imatorbhebhe (ankle rehab), tight end Daniel Imatorbhebhe (quad rehab), tight end Austin Applebee (mononucleosis), offensive lineman Jordan Austin (pectoral strain). Out: running back Markese Stepp (concussion recovery), linebacker Palaie Gaoteote (meniscus surgery rehab).

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