After a brief hiatus, it's time to jump back into our series looking at the Week One opponents for every Big Ten team. T-minus 10 weeks until the start of the season. Let's examine the opening hurdle for the Minnesota Golden Gophers and first-year coach Jerry Kill.
Week 1 Opponent: at Southern Cal
Coach: Lane Kiffin (second year, 8-5)
2010 record: 8-5 (5-4, Pac-10)
Returning starters: 14 (six offense, eight defense)
About the Trojans: USC won't be going to a bowl this season for the second straight season, thanks to NCAA penalties that were recently upheld. Where does that leave the Trojans' mindset for a regular season that becomes their only reward? What we know about this team is that, despite the probation-induced scholarship reductions, it can still field an impressive amount of talent. Those scholarship losses might take their toll more toward the end of the season, when injuries mount. USC returns three-year starter Matt Barkley at quarterback, along with leading rusher Marc Tyler (913 yards on '10) and top receiver Robert Woods. Another year in the defensive scheme under Monte Kiffin could improve the defense, which is led by safety T.J. McDonald. The Trojans have major issues on their offensive line, which was banged up this spring. And it remains to be seen just how good a head coach Lane Kiffin is.
Random factoid: Monte Kiffin spent eight seasons as an assistant with the Minnesota Vikings.
Series with Minnesota: USC leads 5-1-1 (The Trojans won 32-21 in 2010 at Minnesota).
Totally unscientific percentage chance Minnesota wins: 31 percent. Welcome to Minnesota, Coach Kill! Your first assignment is merely to travel all the way to Los Angeles and try to beat USC in the Coliseum. The good news is that this Trojans team isn't nearly as fearsome as those from Pete Carroll's heyday. The bad news is that the Gophers will be playing their first game for a new coach, and there is bound to be an adjustment period. Perhaps Minnesota will benefit from an air of mystery in its first game under Kill, but this still looks like an awfully tall order to open a season.
Previously in the series