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USC football vs. UNLV: Time, TV schedule, game preview, score

Southern California hosts UNLV in season opener

Quarterback Sam Darnold of the USC Trojans reacts as he scores a touchdown to take a 41-6 lead over the Arizona State Sun Devils during the third quarter at Los Angeles Coliseum on Oct. 1, 2016 in Los Angeles. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

LOS ANGELES – No. 15 USC will have a distinctive new look when it takes the field for its opener with UNLV on Saturday afternoon, and it won't just be the ongoing $300 million renovation of the historic Los Angeles Coliseum. The Trojans will also unveil their new starting quarterback who will try and fill the big shoes of No. 3 NFL Draft-pick Sam Darnold.

TV: 4 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network LINE: USC -25.5

Head coach Clay Helton announced Sunday night that 18-year-old true freshman JT Daniels, who was Gatorade's National Player of the Year after leading Mater Dei High School of Santa Ana, Calif., to a 15-0 record and the mythical national championship, will be the man to take over for Darnold, who set a school single-season record with 4,143 passing yards last season.

Daniels, who graduated a year early from Mater Dei so he could enroll at USC in the summer, beat out redshirt freshman Jack Sears, who succeeded Darnold at San Clemente High School, and redshirt sophomore Matt Fink, who saw action in three games in mop-up duty.

"He's a very mature kid, both physically and mentally," Helton told the Los Angeles Times of Daniels. "Our goal with all freshmen is to come in and not (just) learn but compete when they come into camp. And obviously, he's doing a nice job competing."

The game is a homecoming for UNLV quarterback Armani Rogers who helped lead Los Angeles Hamilton High School to an L.A. City title as a junior in the Coliseum.

ABOUT UNLV (5-7 in 2017)

The Rebels have improved by one win each season under fourth-year head coach Tony Sanchez, which means it's bowl game or bust this year. Rogers, the reigning Mountain West Conference Freshman of the Year, and explosive senior Lexington Thomas, a first team All-Mountain West pick who rushed for 1,336 yards and averaged 6.3 yards per carry in 2017, headline an offense that returns seven starters and ranked 18th nationally in rushing with an average of 240.2 yards per game.

Sanchez brought in Florida linebackers coach Tim Skipper as defensive coordinator and try to upgrade a defense that allowed 458.7 yards and 31.8 points per game and gave up 43 points in a shocking home loss to Howard.

ABOUT USC (11-3 in 2017)

Beside Darnold, the Trojans also must replace dependable Ronald Jones II who ran for 3,619 yards in three seasons. However, the cupboard is hardly bare with talented sophomore Stephen Carr, who had 119 yards in their Pac-12 opening win against Stanford last season, and senior Aca'Cedric Ware returning.

Daniels' top target at Mater Dei, freshman Amon-Ra St. Brown, joins sophomore Tyler Vaughns and junior Michael Pittman Jr. to give the Trojans what should be one of the Pac-12's top wide receiving corps while the defense will be led by a trio of future high NFL Draft picks in middle linebacker Cameron Smith, outside linebacker Porter Gustin and cornerback Iman Marshall.

EXTRA POINTS

1. Matt Barkley, like Daniels and 2004 Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinhart is a Mater Dei High School grad and is the only other USC true freshman to start a season opener at quarterback.

2. USC is 30-1-1 (.953) against current Mountain West teams (not including two wins vacated due to NCAA penalty) with the lone loss coming to Fresno State in 1992.

3. USC has won the only previous meeting between the two schools, 35-21 in 1997 in the Coliseum which also was the 100th collegiate coaching victory for future Rebels head coach John Robinson.

PREDICTION: USC 38, UNLV 20

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