USC (0-0) vs Alabama (0-0)
When: Saturday, September 3rd 2016
Where: AT&T Stadium, Arlington, TX
Time: 8:00 ET | TV: ABC
Two National powers will meet in Arlington, Texas Saturday night when the defending BCS Champion Alabama Crimson Tide meet the Southern California Trojans. Alabama comes into the season with a #1 ranking and will be looking for their fifth national title in eight years. Gone is quarterback Jake Coker and Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry. Still, Alabama again boasts one of the top recruiting classes in the nation. Alabama coach Nick Saban said that junior Cooper Bateman and redshirt freshman Blake Barnett are his squad’s top two quarterbacks, but has yet to name a starter. Bateman started one game last year and threw 52 passes. Sophomores Bo Scarbrough and Damien Harris will be called upon to replace Henry and will share carries against USC. Calvin Ridley (SEC-freshman record 89 receptions for 1,045 yards in 2015) and junior ArDarius Stewart (63 catches) will help the new quarterback ease into action. The Tide will replace six starters on defense, but the main pieces remain from a team that was third in the country in total defense in 2015.
The Trojans 17-game season-opening winning streak will be tested Saturday with a new QB calling the shots. Max Browne will replace three-year starter Cody Kessler. Browne, a junior, has thrown just 19 passes in his two years and is looking for his first touchdown. The Trojans feature one of the nation’s top receivers in junior JuJu Smith-Schuster, who caught 89 passes for 1,454 yards and 10 touchdowns last season. Sophomore Ronald Jones II set a school freshman rushing record with 987 yards – surpassing school legend Charles White (1976). He will likely share the workload with senior Justin Davis (902 yards in 2015) behind an offensive line that returns all five starters. Junior cornerback Adoree’ Jackson – who also returned two punts for scores and caught 27 passes on offense in 2015 is the leader on defense. USC will need to be better against the pass this season (93rd in 2015) if it wants to compete in the wide-open PAC-12.
USC has the talent, but always seemed to come up short against the big name opponents last year (0-5). Head coach Clay Helton is in his first full season with USC and he’s going to have trouble matching wits against Saban. ‘Bama is loaded as usual, I don’t see them having any problems with USC tonight.
Pick: Alabama -12