LOS ANGELES – Coach Lane Kiffin is hoping Southern California can score more points by using fewer quarterbacks.
The Trojans (1-1) probably will need more than mere consistency from Cody Kessler on Saturday to knock off Boston College (2-0).
Kessler is expected to play the entire game against the Eagles after sharing time in USC's first two games with Max Wittek. The Trojans' offense was horrific in last week's 10-7 loss to Washington State, and they're hoping a single signal-caller can find a semblance of a rhythm in this discordant unit.
"We know we've got to improve all around to get a win," Kessler said.
With USC reeling after just two games, the Eagles realize they've got a golden opportunity to knock off a storied program. New coach Steve Addazio has his own challenges in the cross-country trip, most notably finding ways to beat USC's impressive defense.
Five reasons to care about Boston College's fourth meeting with USC:
RETTIG'S RETURN: Boston College quarterback Chase Rettig is from Sierra Madre, Calif., and the only Californian on the Eagles' roster. He's turning to teammates to get extra tickets for friends and family. Rettig played high school football in Pasadena and San Clemente, but wasn't heavily recruited in his home state — not that it bothered him. Asked whether he was a USC or UCLA fan growing up, Rettig said: "Oregon State. My mother was a Beaver." Kiffin also recruited Rettig at Tennessee, but the quarterback chose Boston College, one of the first schools that went after him. Rettig will start his 35th consecutive game for the Eagles, his 36th start overall. He is 30 of 44 for 408 yards and four touchdowns this season — numbers the Trojans' quarterbacks can only imagine.
USING LEE: It's tough to believe that a team with Marqise Lee on its roster hasn't completed a 20-yard pass this season, but the Trojans are still waiting for a big play from the Biletnikoff Award winner. Lee hasn't done much for the Trojans through two games this season, catching 15 passes for 131 yards and no touchdowns. That's largely due to Kiffin's play-calling: Lee spent most of last week's loss catching bubble screen passes and attempting to wade through Washington State's eight-deep defensive coverage, which allowed no big plays. Yet the junior leader insists there's no frustration in his game, and he's confident he'll get chances to succeed from Kiffin. "If I've got to run bubble screens all day, that's what I'm going to do," Lee said. "In his game plan, that's the right thing to do." Lee is vocally supportive of Kiffin, crediting the coach for his All-American status last season on a roster also featuring Robert Woods.
D UP: USC leads the nation in sacks and rushing defense after just two weeks of play, with new defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast getting much more out of the Trojans' talented defensive players than Monte Kiffin ever did. Just a few months after one of the worst defensive seasons in USC history, the Trojans have been dominant so far in Pendergast's 5-2 scheme. Although Washington State is solid offensively, the Trojans haven't faced a unit with the talent of Boston College. Pendergast is particularly impressed with Eagles tailback Andre Williams. He's a very physical runner," Pendergast said. "He's very talented. We're going to need all hands on deck to control him."
A HEATED STADIUM: The game features a rare 12 p.m. local start time, meaning the teams will be playing in the middle of what's expected to be a hot day in Los Angeles, with temperatures likely well above 90 degrees. The heat in the stadium last week was directed at Kiffin, who was serenaded with boos and chants of "Fire Kiffin!" as the Trojans' offensive ineptitude grew. After home games in front of empty seats against Villanova and Wake Forest, Boston College prepared for its road game by piping in the USC fight song on a continuous loop at practice on Wednesday morning to get the players used to the noise, even at the risk of annoying their Chestnut Hill neighbors.
TV BROWNOUT: The game is being aired on Pac-12 Network, which means it'll be tough to see for many fans who aren't in the Coliseum. The Pac-12 doesn't have a distribution deal with DirectTV for its network more than a year after its inception, and the conference took the much-criticized step of encouraging its fans to drop DirecTV this season. But other content providers, including the San Fernando Valley's Charter Cable, also don't carry the network. The Pac-12 also declined to provide the game to any other network back in Boston, which means almost nobody back in Massachusetts will be able to see it.
AP Sports Writer Jimmy Golen in Boston contributed to this report.