Three things to know about USC vs. San Jose State on Saturday

USC quarterback Kedon Slovis passes against Arizona State in November.
USC quarterback Kedon Slovis passes against Arizona State in November. Slovis will be under center Saturday in the season opener against San Jose State.
(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

Breaking down USC‘s matchup against San Jose State on Saturday:

USC (0-0) vs. San Jose State (1-0)

Location: L.A. Memorial Coliseum

Time: 2 p.m.

TV: Pac-12 Networks

Weather forecast: 86 degrees, sunny.

Latest line: USC by 14 points.

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About USC: The pitchforks are already out as Clay Helton enters his sixth and most critical season as USC’s coach, and if he has any hope of fending off the angry mob calling for his ouster, Helton can’t afford to lose in the opener. But with All-Pac-12 quarterback Kedon Slovis under center and a strong defense to back him up, USC shouldn’t have too much trouble taking care of business here. The biggest question mark is on the offensive line, where the Trojans will trot out two redshirt freshmen as bookend tackles. If the rushing attack resembles the horror show of 2020, in which USC boasted one of the worst ground games in college football, it could be in trouble. Maybe not this week, but certainly down the line.

About San Jose State: San Jose State has never beaten USC, losing its four previous meetings by an average of four touchdowns. But these are not your average Spartans. San Jose State won its first seven games and the Mountain West title last season, and it returns many of the key players from that breakthrough campaign. That experience could be crucial, especially at quarterback, where Nick Starkel is among the best at the position outside the Power Five.

Three things you need to know:

1. While USC is hoping to reestablish its rushing attack with the addition of Texas transfer Keaontay Ingram, San Jose State has no such concerns in its backfield. Senior running back Tyler Nevens is back after averaging 7.8 yards per carry last season, good for fourth among college backs with 60 or more carries.

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2. USC is 12-1 in nonconference home games since 2013 and has won 13 straight season openers at home. Helton has lost just once in the opener in six full seasons as USC’s coach — a blowout to No. 1 Alabama in 2016. The Trojans have won their four ensuing openers by an average of more than 12 points.

3. USC linebacker Drake Jackson wasn’t shy this week assuring the Trojans’ pass rush would get after the quarterback on Saturday. “We’re gonna eat,” Jackson said. But no pass rusher in college football ate up quarterbacks more often last season than San Jose State’s Cade Hall, whose 1.43 sacks per game ranked No. 1 among Football Bowl Subdivision teams that played more than four games in 2020.