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Utah State football: Aggies expect extremely tough challenge at USC

Published: Saturday, July 4 2015 2:54 p.m. MDT

Southern California coach Lane Kiffin watches his team warm up before the first half of an NCAA college football game against Washington State in Los Angeles, Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson) (Chris Carlson, ASSOCIATED PRESS) Southern California coach Lane Kiffin watches his team warm up before the first half of an NCAA college football game against Washington State in Los Angeles, Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson) (Chris Carlson, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

LOGAN — On several occasions over the last four seasons, Utah State has come extremely close to upsetting BCS teams on the road.

Every time, however, the Aggies have come up just short.

Their next chance to beat one of the big boys comes Saturday afternoon at USC. Of all the games Utah State has played at BCS opponents recently, perhaps no team has looked more ripe for the picking than the Trojans.

Two weeks ago USC lost 10-7 at home to a lightly regarded Washington State squad. Trojans head coach Lane Kiffin has been in the crosshairs as USC fans have been vocal about wanting a new head coach.

While these factors might make USC seem like the perfect opponent for Utah State, the Trojans are still loaded with talent. Among their stars is wide receiver Marqise Lee, last year’s Biletnikoff Award winner.

Utah State Aggies quarterback Chuckie Keeton (16) throws against Utah during NCAA football in Salt Lake City  Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013. Utah won 30-26.  (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) Utah State Aggies quarterback Chuckie Keeton (16) throws against Utah during NCAA football in Salt Lake City Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013. Utah won 30-26. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

“(Lee) is just so explosive and he’s smart. He knows how to stretch the field,” Aggie safety Brian Suite said. “The (USC) coaching staff, they know how explosive he is and they know how to use him effectively.”

USC has settled an earlier quarterback controversy by deciding on sophomore Cody Kessler. Against Boston College last week Kessler threw for 237 yards and had just two incompletions in a 35-7 romp over Boston College.

On defense, the Trojans start an array of projected future NFL players. Among the best are pass rushers Morgan Breslin and Devon Kennard and safeties Su’a Cravens and Kevon Seymour.

“They've given up three touchdowns in three games,” USU coach Matt Wells said. “They're top 10 in like 30 defensive categories. If there's that many, they're probably in the top 10 of every one of them.”

Utah State Aggies quarterback Chuckie Keeton (16) runs against Weber State  during NCAA football in Logan  Saturday, Sept. 14, 2013.  (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) Utah State Aggies quarterback Chuckie Keeton (16) runs against Weber State during NCAA football in Logan Saturday, Sept. 14, 2013. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

ON THE GROUND: For the Aggies to win in Los Angeles, they will need a lot of help from their running back duo of Joey DeMartino and Joe Hill.

“The first thing we want to be is a physical running team and to get a big yardage game on the ground started against them,” DeMartino said.

USC is allowing only 43 rushing yards per game, and a miniscule 1.66 yards per carry. The Aggies have averaged 219 yards per contest on the ground and nearly 5 yards per rush.

OVER THE AIR: Fans in Utah won't need cable to catch the game this weekend. ABC will televise the matchup between the Aggies and the Trojans on the West Coast, while ESPN 2 will carry the game on the East Coast. It will be the first time the Aggies have played a national game on ABC since Oct. 7, 1978 at BYU.

NOTES: After three weeks quarterback Chuckie Keeton is tied for the NCAA lead with 12 touchdown passes. … Saturday's contest against USC is the first of a four-game stretch for Utah State against 2012 bowl participants. The Trojans lost in the Hyundai Sun Bowl last season. … Saturday’s game at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum is the only time USU will play on natural grass this season.

Kraig Williams is a 2010 Utah State University graduate and regular Deseret News sports blogger. He can be followed on Twitter @DesNewsKraig.

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