Kessler, a fourth-year junior from Bakersfield, held off a challenge from redshirt freshman Max Browne.
Kessler passed for 20 touchdowns, with seven interceptions, last season. He finished the season with four touchdown passes in the Trojans’ 45-20 victory over Fresno State in the Las Vegas Bowl.
USC opens the 2014 season against Fresno State on Aug. 30 at the Coliseum.
Sarkisian has installed a fast-paced no-huddle offense this spring.
Browne showed great improvement from last season but could not unseat Kessler.
Freshman Jalen Greene will be the No. 3 quarterback.