PROVO, Utah – There was plenty of pessimism surrounding the USC Trojans after losing starting quarterback JT Daniels for the season with a knee injury in an opening 31-23 victory over Fresno State. But the 24th-ranked Trojans, who travel to BYU on Saturday afternoon, now have reason to be optimistic for the rest of the season thanks to the sparkling play of Daniels' replacement in a surprisingly lopsided 45-20 victory over Stanford last week.
TV: 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC. LINE: USC -4
True freshman Kedon Slovis, rated only a three-star recruit coming out of Desert Mountain High School in Scottsdale, Ariz., where his quarterback coach was NFL Hall of Famer Kurt Warner, had a jaw-dropping starting debut against the Cardinal, completing 28-of-33 passes for 377 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. It was the most yards, TDs, completions and best completion percentage by a true freshman QB in a starting debut in USC history, surpassing the likes of Heisman Trophy winner Carson Palmer, Daniels and future NFLers Rob Johnson and Matt Barkley, and the second-most passing yards by a Trojan true freshman in any game behind Barkley's 380 at Notre Dame in 2009. "I tried to tell you," first-year USC offensive Graham Harrell told the Los Angeles Times. "The kid (has) a chance to be special." Slovis now makes his first college road start against a BYU team that bounced back from a ugly 30-12 season-opening home loss to Holy War-rival Utah to stun host Tennessee, 29-26, in double overtime last Saturday.
ABOUT USC (2-0)
Perhaps even more impressive then Slovis' passing stats against Stanford was his poise as the Trojans fell behind 17-3 in the second quarter before the 6-foot-2 18-year-old rallied USC to score 42 of the game's final 45 points. Slovis has one of the nation's top wide receiving corps to throw to, led by junior Tyler Vaughns (16 catches, 256 yards, 1 TD), sophomore Amon-Ra St. Brown (13-135-2) and senior Michael Pittman Jr. (12-110-0) while junior Vavae Malepeai is averaging 88.0 yards per game on the ground and has scored three touchdowns. Safety Talanoa Hufanga and linebacker John Houston lead the defense with 18 tackles apiece while sophomore corner Olaijah Griffin has five pass breakups.
ABOUT BYU (1-1)
Sophomore quarterback Zach Wilson, despite getting sacked four times and facing constant pressure from the Vols' defense, completed 19-of-29 passes for 232 yards and a touchdown at Tennessee and hit wide receiver Micah Simon with a 64-yard pass on 3rd-and-6 from the BYU 20 in the final minute to set up Jake Oldroyd's 33-yard field goal that sent the game into overtime. Ty'Son Williams, a grad transfer from South Carolina, rushed for 92 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries including a five-yard TD run in the second overtime to win it. "You definitely want to enjoy (the win over Tennessee) but after today we have to lock down and get focused on USC," Williams told the Deseret News. "That's a great team we have coming in. We want to protect LaVell's house, so we look forward to next week's challenge and trying to get another victory."
1. USC leads the series with BYU, 2-0. The teams last met in 2004 in Provo with Reggie Bush (124) and LenDale White (110) each rushing for more than 100 yards in a 42-10 victory.
2. The Trojans are 82-30-8 (71.7 percent) in road openers not including one win vacated due to NCAA penalty.
3. Griffin's father is rapper and hip-hop producer Warren G.
PREDICTION: USC 38, BYU 27