- Associated Press - Thursday, September 3, 2015

Arkansas State (7-6 in 2014) No. 8 SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA (9-4 in 2014), 11 p.m. (Pac-12 Network)

Line: USC by 27.

Series Record: First meeting.


USC’s first season after stiff NCAA sanctions begins with a visit from the Sun Belt’s Red Wolves, who are coming off four straight winning seasons and bowl appearances. The Trojans could use a persuasive victory to move the focus past another eventful fall camp that was lowlighted by coach Steve Sarkisian’s drunken speech at a pep rally and subsequent apologies.


Arkansas State WR J.D. McKissic vs. USC CBs Kevon Seymour and Adoree Jackson. McKissic already holds the Red Wolves’ career records for receptions in a game, a season and a career, and he’s catching passes from preseason all-conference QB Fredi Knighten. The Trojans’ improved secondary will get an early test.


Arkansas State: DL Ja’Von Rolland-Jones. The sophomore was 14th in the nation last season with eight sacks, leading the Red Wolves’ 37-sack production. He’ll head their attempt to pressure Trojans QB Cody Kessler, who is historically accurate when given time to throw.

USC: RB Tre Madden. After missing two of the past three seasons with injuries, the power-running senior is expected to carry a heavy load for the Trojans this fall. Justin Davis is the only other scholarship veteran returnee at the position for Tailback U., but Madden finished a standout fall camp with complete health.


Arkansas State has never beaten a Pac-12 team, while USC is 8-0 against Idaho - the only current Sun Belt member that the Trojans have ever played. … Blake Anderson stuck around for a second season at Arkansas State, becoming the first coach to do that since 2010. Hugh Freeze, Gus Malzahn and Bryan Harsin all moved on to bigger jobs after a single season with the Red Wolves. … USC offensive coordinator Clay Helton spent 57 days as an assistant coach at Arkansas State in early 2010 under coach Steve Roberts, but bolted for a job offer from Lane Kiffin with the Trojans. … Arkansas State won its last two season openers, while USC has won 17 straight.

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