USC to open season against top-ranked Alabama
Tal Volk | Daily TrojanIt’s game time · Junior wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster was named the top wide receiver in college football by NCAA.com on Wednesday. The list also included Alabama’s sophomore wide receiver Calvin Ridley.After months of anticipation and preparation, football season begins on Saturday when No. 20 USC travels to Arlington to take on defending national champion and the undisputed No. 1 team in the country, the Alabama Crimson Tide.Though USC has seven victories over No. 1-ranked teams in the past, they are picked to lose by double-digits according to the Las Vegas spread. Head coach Clay Helton highlighted the two main areas the team has been working on.“Takeaways and ball security,” Helton said. “We spent a lot of time in practice just focusing on our individual fundamentals and techniques.”While the outside world has questioned the readiness of USC’s defense in facing a well-oiled machine in the Crimson Tide, the team is confident that it is ready for the challenge.“I think people aren’t aware of us yet,” sophomore defensive tackle Noah Jefferson said. “We have a lot of talent. We did a lot of hard work this offseason.”The defensive line is not the only defensive unit that will have their hands full. Junior cornerback and returner Adoree’ Jackson will be matched up against a man he compared to former USC All-American Nelson Agholor — Alabama sophomore wide receiver Calvin Ridley. Due to Jackson’s responsibilities on defense, his role on offense will be limited, however, he will remain the Trojans’ primary returner.Redshirt senior left tackle Chad Wheeler is still dealing with plantar fasciitis, an inflammation of the tissue near the heel, but Helton is expecting to use Wheeler in a few series. Helton said he was very fortunate with the team’s injury situation and described it as very healthy.Also on the offensive line, Helton is expecting redshirt sophomore Chris Brown and junior Damien Mama to split time at left guard.“They’ve both had terrific camps, and it will help keep us fresh,” Helton said.As far as coaching is concerned, offensive coordinator and play caller Tee Martin and defensive line coach Kenechi Udeze will be the primary coaches in the press box. Martin is expected to be an aggressive play caller.“I expect great things from him, I really do,” Helton said. “He believes the run sets up the pass. When you throw the ball, look for explosive plays. We’re of the same mindset.”This will be the first meeting between the two teams since 1985, and USC has not played an SEC team in 10 years. USC has won its last 17 season openers, while Alabama has won its last 14. With many younger players opening their collegiate careers on the biggest stage in the country, Helton shared his advice on keeping their nerves low.“Do your job one play at a time and don’t get caught up in the grandness of the stage or the opponent that you’re playing,” Helton said. “You’ve played great players all through training camp, you’re going to play great players on Saturday; how do you win ball games? You do your job.”See all of our USC-Alabama game coverage here.