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Los Angeles • If the astronomy is correct, Utah State has little chance of eclipsing USC on Saturday at the storied L.A. Coliseum.
Aggie center Austin Stephens explains.
"They're talented," he said. "You look at it from top to bottom, the guys they recruit are four- or five-star guys. So obviously they're going to be able to play some football. … Just very talented."
Still, Utah State's Jalen Davis disagrees with anyone who doesn't give the Aggies a shot of upsetting the Trojans.
"We can play with them," he said. "We can play with any team in the country. We have a good offense and we have a good defense. We have a great team."
It's a little early to declare what level of greatness these Aggies will reach and what kind of a season they will enjoy. Or endure.
But one thing is certain.
The Aggies got off to a confidence-building start with a 45-6 victory over Weber State in their opener, when Devante Mays rushed 18 times for 208 yards and three touchdowns. They seem eager for the opportunity to prove themselves against a Pac-12 opponent.
"I definitely feel that we have an opportunity to go in there and win," defensive end Ricky Ali'ifua said.
USC must also prove itself in this game, for a different reason than Utah State. The Trojans opened their season by testing top-ranked Alabama.
USC owned a 3-0 lead into the second quarter, but the Crimson Tide dominated from there. They ended up breezing to a 52-6 win, shaking Trojan Nation like a California earthquake.
In Tuesday's practice, USC players got into a fight. Star receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster walked off the field and had to be coaxed to return by coaches and teammates.
"JuJu, after the catch, is really physical," Utah State coach Matt Wells said. "He's almost like a running back after the catch. If you don't gang tackle or wrap up any of their receivers right out of the gate, it could be a long afternoon. They can expose mistakes into touchdowns really quick."
Smith-Schuster caught only one pass for nine yards against Alabama. It's likely quarterback Max Browne will look for him more often against Utah State.
Will the Aggie secondary be ready?
"… We think so," Davis said. "We just have to battle him. He's good. But we have a good defense, too. So we'll see what happens."
Safety Dallin Leavitt, a transfer from BYU, had six tackles and an interception against Weber State.
"I thought [we] played well," he said. "I thought we communicated well. I played average. First game jitters really got me, I think, on the first two or three series. But as a whole, for my first game in two years, I thought it was pretty good."
Utah State's defense limited Weber State to 245 totals yards, but Leavitt knows USC presents a greater challenger.
"They are big, athletic, strong," he said. "They're five-stars, four-stars, whatever you want to say. They are a great team. They run the ball very well. They have great backs and a great offensive line. …
"We have to play a really good game. We have to stop the run and, when they do take shots down the field, we have to do what our back end does. I feel very comfortable with our back end."
Said Ali'ifua: "… We're excited for the challenge that is ahead of us." firstname.lastname@example.org
Utah State at USC
At the Los Angeles Coliseum
Kickoff • noon (MDT)
TV • Pac 12 Networks
Radio • 610-AM, 1280-AM, 95.9-FM 102.1-FM
Records • Utah State, 1-0; USC, 0-1
Series • USC leads, 5-0.
Last meeting • USC, 17-14 (2013)
About the Aggies • They play nine 2015 bowl teams this season, starting with USC. … They are 15-14 in their last 29 road games, going back to 2012. … In their opening 45-6 win over Weber State, they were 4-for-4 in the red zone, including three touchdowns. … DE Ricky Ali'ifua, S Devin Centers and PK Jake Thompson played against the Trojans in 2013, when the USC prevailed on a late field goal.
About the Trojans • They were picked second in the Pac 12 South, behind UCLA. … They return 14 starters from last season, when they finished 8-6. … Including last year, they have lost three straight to Stanford (41-22), Wisconsin (23-21) and Alabama (52-6). … All-time, they are 29-1-1 against teams currently in the Mountain West Conference. … They haven't started a home game before noon since 1998.