USCopened the 2015 season with a 55-6 rout of a Sun Belt Conference favorite, Arkansas State. In Week 2, the Trojans host a team pegged for the Sun Belt's cellar in Idaho.
Idaho has won exactly one game each of the last three seasons. The Vandals' last multiple-win campaign came in 2011, when they finished 2-10. The 2015 season isn't off to the most inspiring start, either, with Idaho coming off a 45-28 loss at home to Ohio.
The most noteworthy moment in third-year head coach Paul Petrino's 2-22 tenure is a spat with a local reporter during training camp last month, which drew national headlines.
If Idaho is destined for another one-win season, that solitary victory isn't going to come Saturday in the Coliseum. The Vandals first-string would likely be considered a multiple-touchdown underdog against the Trojans' second-and-third-string — which Idaho will see a lot of as is.
Idaho gives USC head coach Steve Sarkisian a prime opportunity to play backups and youngsters, which he did extensively against Arkansas State. In fact, only four teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision played more true freshmen Week 1 than USC's 13.
Pac-12 play begins for USC in Week 3, so the sharper the Trojans can get in all phases before then, the better for them.
Idaho at USC
Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET
TV: Pac-12 Networks
Spread: USC -43
Three Things to Watch
The USC roster is the deepest it's been in a few years with NCAA-mandated scholarship reductions lapsed. The full extent of USC's depth should be evident early, as overmatched Idaho presents the ideal situation for playing every player on the depth chart.
The mismatch should also provide a glimpse into USC's future. Expect redshirt sophomore Max Browne to get ample snaps, should Heisman Trophy-contending quarterback Cody Kessler get the hook early, provided the Trojans jump ahead.
2. Turnover Creation
USC excelled in generating turnovers against Arkansas State, coming away with four. Conversely, Idaho was among the nation's most turnover-prone teams in 2014. The Vandals finished the season with 28 giveaways.
They're not off to the best of starts in 2015, either, losing the ball three times against Ohio. Some pressure on quarterback Matt Linehan in the early going should translate into some takeaways and quick points.
3. Special Teams
Sarkisian's evaluation of special teams play was lukewarm after Week 1, particularly kicking and punting. Both were issues for the Trojans in 2014, and 2015 began with a blocked extra point and a few missed opportunities to pin the Red Wolves deep in their own territory.
In a game designed specifically for ironing kinks, improved special teams play should be a point of emphasis Saturday.
Appalachian State-Michigan. Temple-Virginia Tech. There's a reason sizable underdogs take the field in seeming mismatches, and USC's experienced it with its 2007 loss to Stanford.
That said, Saturday's contest against Idaho has huge blowout written all over it.
The flood gates are likely to open on Idaho's turnover-prone offense and porous defense early, giving the Trojans time to fine-tune certain facets of their game in preparation for Stanford's visit to the Coliseum next week.