1. The Trojans' offense was dominant against Fresno - while we can't expect them to rack up 700 yards every game, are there any reasons we should think USC's O won't be anything short of spectacular this season?
There are still concerns with a very young offensive line. They will really be tested this weekend against Stanford's veteran defensive front. Sarkisian plans to rotate linemen in the middle of drives, which is potentially the next evolution of the HUNH offense or potentially something to be exploited by opposing teams.
But if the young offensive linemen continue to mature quickly and live up to their recruiting rankings, there's no reason not to believe USC will be an explosive offense all season.
2. In Sarkisian's offense at Washington, Keith Price was asked to be a dual threat QB - how often will Cody Kessler be asked to run?
He will rarely be asked to run. Similar to how Aaron Murray was used with Georgia, Kessler will occasionally be asked to keep the ball on the zone read just to keep the defense honest, but that will be a once- or twice-a-game call.
One of Kessler's strengths, however, is his accuracy when throwing on the run, so don't be surprised to see rollouts that turn into short runs if the receivers are covered.
3. We've heard a lot about Leonard Williams as a potential Pac-12 DPOY, but on a larger scale, what are the specific strengths and weaknesses of USC's defense?
One of USC's unique strengths on defense is having a legitimate star at each level. Leonard Williams is an absolute beast on the line as evidenced by his play last year when he was essentially playing with one shoulder and still put up All-American caliber stats. Hayes Pullard is the veteran at the middle linebacker position that may be the most underrated defender in the conference. Su'a Cravens gives the Trojans versatility in the secondary with his ability to play deep centerfield or come up to the line and become another linebacker.
The weakness of the defense is definitely depth. USC has lost a player that was expected to make significant contributions at each level. LB Jabari Ruffin and CB Josh Shaw were both starters and DL Kenny Bigelow would have been used heavily in the defensive line rotation.
With Shaw's suspension, the Trojans are also young in the secondary. Junior corner Kevon Seymour and Cravens, a sophomore, are the only two with significant experience. Safety Gerald Bowman is a 24-year-old fifth-year senior, but Fresno State was his first start after taking a medical redshirt last year. Fellow safety Leon McQuay III played sparingly last year while Chris Hawkins redshirted -- now both are starting. There's also true freshmen Adoree' Jackson and Jonathan Lockett, who saw some action last Saturday.
4. There were a lot of talented freshmen playing last week, what youngster should we be paying close attention to?
If you like watching the hog mollies, Toa Lobendahn is the one to watch on USC's offensive line, but since most people focus on the skill players, keep your eyes peeled for #2 and #9. Most USC fans are already trained to look for #2 and #9 from Robert Woods and Marqise Lee wearing the numbers. The new #2 and #9 are just as explosive -- if not more so (yeah...I said it).
Adoree' Jackson (#2) will be all over the field. He'll line up at receiver in the slot. He'll play cornerback where he was trusted enough already to be left alone on the island without safety help over the top at times in the Fresno game. And Adoree' will also see time on special teams returning punts.
There's also JuJu Smith (#9), who...ho-hum...had the most impressive debut for a true freshman receiver in USC football history.He's 6-2, 210 pounds and is a raw athlete. He eventually might see time on defense or he might end up like Lee, who was projected to be a college safety, but was just too darn good to move to the other side of the ball.
5. What are your keys to the game on Saturday (and your prediction for the final score)?
Doesn't the USC/Stanford game always come down to the battle in the trenches? Both teams have young offensive lines facing quality defensive fronts. Whichever o-line plays best will be the winner.
Final Score: 24-23 (phew...good thing you didn't ask for a winner).
6. And finally, I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't ask: What on earth happened with Josh Shaw?
Using the Josh Shaw Story Creator, I've determined that Shaw pushed a dog out of the path of a speeding car and delivered quintuplets while wrestling an alligator during a month-long fast for Women's Rights.