What will Barkley, USC show us today?

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

LOS ANGELES -- Heard the first "Tribute to Troy" of the day outside the Coliseum a half hour ago.

USC's players are swaggering out onto the field in their warm-ups, gathering at midfield at this moment.

The 2009 season is upon us (if only someone had told Oregon).

It's sunny and warm in southern California, with only a slightly more dense than usual haze in the distance reminding us that the area is suffering through a trying time with wildfires still burning in the Angeles National Forest not too far away.

So, you wanna hear analysis about how the USC offensive line matches up with the San Jose State defensive front (favorably)?

Or do you want to hear about why we are really here?

Two reasons.

First, super-hyped true freshman Trojans quarterback Matt Barkley makes his debut today and everyone wants to know if lightning will flow from his fingertips while he hurls whizzing spiral after whizzing spiral into the firmament.

Second, when the final bell sounds, what will the whole mess of it mean for next weekend's marquee showdown with Ohio State in the Horseshoe?

There's a sidebar, perhaps, about how good a rebuilt -- and injury-riddled -- Trojans defense will look.

But really this is about Barkley and Next Weekend.

All this is to say that San Jose State is expected to play the role of the Washington Generals, an opponent that is incidental for the Big Show on the other sideline.

That should give at least a moment's pause. USC is only a 34 1/2-point favorite. You may remember that the Trojans went rear-end-over-tea-kettle here against a 41-point dog in 2007.

In the age of Appalachian State winning at Michigan and Stanford stunning the Trojan colossus, there are no gimme games.

And Spartans coach Dick Tomey can do some tricky things on defense, though a lack of experience in the secondary will limit his options.

Still, this scene-setter is, ultimately, about a scene-setter.

What will Barkley and the new-look Trojans do today? And will it convince us that they are -- again -- national title contenders?