LOS ANGELES — The University of Southern California may be on probation and will not go to a 2011 postseason bowl, but there are still enough storylines to keep the local entertainment industry and talk shows satisfied.
How will the Utah team do as the newcomer in the Pac-12? Will USC fade again in the fourth quarter?
Can Mark Tyler return from a suspension caused by an inappropriate comment he made to TMZ, a television show covering celebrities?
How will the team react after comments made by coach Lane Kiffin about the offense?
Despite all of that, Southern California offensive guard John Martinez doesn't draw the celebrity culture to him. Despite so many reality shows on television, Martinez isn't likely to get a call.
In 2010, the redshirt sophomore from Cottonwood High only played when games were already decided. In 2011, he has earned a spot as the starting offensive guard for the Trojans.
"Last year, I only played in the fourth quarter," said Martinez, who moved from center to right guard. "This is my first year playing all four quarters."
Martinez drew the assignment of matching up against Utah left tackle James Aiono in Saturday's 23-14 Trojans' victory. Aiono played most of the game and did not have a tackle.
"Overall, I think I did pretty good but there are still some things I need to work on," Martinez said. "I was looking to control the inside because we needed the running game."
Last week, USC did not run the ball well against Minnesota, gaining only 67yards on 28 carries. Saturday, the Trojans had 152 yards on 39 carries.
The game was also exciting because Martinez had family and friends out to see him play.
"It is definitely a personal game because I have family on their team," said Martinez. "I knew coming in it wasn't just another game. We got a good push off the ball."
Kiffin had praise for the visitors in his post-game press conference.
"Utah played really hard like we knew they would," said Kiffin, who made a point to express sympathy and support for Utah defensive lineman Ron Tongaonevia, whose wife died in an automobile accident following the Montana State game last week. "We had several chance in the second half to push ahead and we just couldn't do it. That is a really good front seven they have."
Tyler gained 113 yards on 24 carries, scoring on a 6-yard carry with 1:58 remaining in the first quarter. The short drive was set up when All-America candidate T. J. McDonald recovered John White's fumble at the Utah 20-yard line.
Tyler did everything Kiffin and USC athletic director Pat Haden asked to get reinstated. Kiffin said he gave Tyler a hug while the team was in the tunnel before the game. He praised Tyler for not making excuses and accepting responsibility.
"I had thought about not playing because I had disappointed my family and my USC family," Tyler said. "When I talked about that, coach said that would be an easy way out."
USC has some talented players, but the Trojans are a young team. Against Utah, Southern California started only one senior on offense and three on defense.
"Once again the freshman showed up," Kiffin said in discussing mistakes his team made. After Matt Kalil blocked Coleman Petersen's 41-yard field goal attempt, Torin Harris recovered and returned the block for a touchdown.
The Trojans celebrated prematurely, and the score was nullified by officials. However, more than an hour after the game, the Pac-12 issued a statement saying the score would be allowed and the final would be recorded as 23-14 rather than 17-14.