No. 8 USC looks to keep sharp against big underdog Idaho
LOS ANGELES (AP) Even after Southern California won its season opener by 49 points, coach Steve Sarkisian returns to the Coliseum this week thinking the Trojans can do much better.
They get another chance against another Sun Belt team before the big-name opponents start to pop up on the eighth-ranked Trojans' schedule, and they're determined to make more strides Saturday night against Idaho.
USC is a prohibitive favorite with good reason against the Vandals (0-1), who gave up 489 yards in a home loss to Ohio last week. The Trojans (1-0) still see plenty of areas in which Idaho could provide a test.
''We all know that they are not the heck of a group that we are going to see from here on out, but we can't look at them like that,'' USC safety Chris Hawkins said. ''We have to look at them as if they are the best, as if we're playing Ohio State or Alabama, so that we can do our jobs and create turnovers.''
Hawkins made an interception and recovered a fumble in the Trojans' 55-6 win over Arkansas State last weekend, yet the defense also gave up 208 yards rushing to a regular bowl team.
The Vandals are not a regular bowl team - in fact, they're 2-22 under coach Paul Petrino.
Sarkisian has a checklist of areas in which the Trojans must improve. He wants his veteran offensive line to allow fewer than five sacks, and he wants quarterback Cody Kessler's offense to run more than 64 plays. He wants better than 30 percent success on third downs, which should fall on play-calling offensive coordinator Clay Helton along with the players.
Sarkisian also will use the game as another chance to build experience for his young players after 23 Trojans made their debuts last weekend.
''The old saying is that the best improvements you make are from Week 1 to Week 2,'' Sarkisian said. ''We played a lot of young people last week, (and) there were a lot of things for guys individually to work on.''
Here are some more things to watch in the schools' second meeting since 1929:
LOOKING GOOD: The Trojans' skill-position players had solid debuts, but also left with areas for improvement. Kessler threw four touchdown passes, but also missed a few receivers downfield and took those sacks - all in the first half. Tailback Tre Madden held up splendidly in his first game since 2013, but would like more touches. Two-way star Adoree Jackson sat out the second half with a minor injury, but should be available.
GET PAID: Idaho will make a reported $1.1 million to line up against USC, but the Vandals also will get to test their passing game against a Pac-12 secondary. Quarterback Matt Linehan threw 15 of his 36 completions last week to Dezmon Epps, who tied for the second-biggest receiving game in Idaho history.
HEAD TO HEAD: These schools played each other seven times during the 1920s, when both were members of the Pacific Coast Conference. They met in 1922 at the Rose Bowl, which had just opened earlier that year. When they met in 1925 in Moscow, just 5,000 fans attended - and the Trojans haven't played in front of a smaller crowd since. USC won every meeting in the `20s and their only other game since, in the 2007 season opener.
FRESH FEET: The Trojans used three freshman tailbacks against Arkansas State, showcasing the burgeoning competition at the school known as Tailback U. Ronald Jones II ran for 86 yards and a touchdown on just six carries and then jokingly complained afterward about Los Angeles' lack of Whataburger junk food, while fellow Texas native Aca'Cedric Ware also rushed for a score on six carries. Dominic Davis also played. If USC gets a big lead, those young ball-carriers are likely to get plenty of action again.
AP college football website: http://collegefootball.ap.org