USC superior in almost every area

Originally Published: August 26, 2004
By Todd McShay | Scouts, Inc.
The 2003 co-national champion USC Trojans, coming off a 12-1 season and a Rose Bowl victory, and the Virginia Tech Hokies, who finished last season 8-5 with an Insight Bowl loss to Cal, meet in the eighth annual Black Coaches Association Football Classic.

Who: USC (1) vs. Virginia Tech
When: Sat., 7:40 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Where: FedEx Field, Landover, Md.

Pete Carroll's Trojans are looking to become the first repeat national champions since the 1994-95 Nebraska Cornhuskers. One of the big questions leading up to this game was the eligibility of All-American WR Mike Williams, who attempted to leave school for the NFL after last season only to be turned away by the Second U.S. Court of Appeals.

Williams had since re-enrolled at USC and taken some classes over the summer to meet school requirements, but an NCAA ruling Thursday denied the Trojan All-American's reinstatement request.

Although the Trojans are obviously a much more talented team with Williams on the field, they are still favorites to repeat as national champions without him. The offense will take a backseat to Carroll's defensive unit, which features DE Shaun Cody, DT Mike Patterson and WLB Matt Grootegoed, but that doesn't mean the offense won't be explosive. With coordinator Norm Chow guiding the offense and southpaw QB Matt Leinart under center, there is no question that the Trojans will continue to find ways to put points on the board.

Frank Beamer's Hokies, on the other hand, are looking to put a disappointing second half of the 2003 season and a tumultuous offseason behind them. As if things weren't bad enough after the team went 2-5 down the stretch, the arrests and subsequent suspensions of QB Marcus Vick, RB Mike Imoh and WR Branden Hill during the offseason left the school with a black eye.

The Hokies are clearly underdogs in this game, but a respectable showing would help restore some of the confidence this team clearly lacked in the second half of last season. It also would go a long way towards putting the offseason behind it.

Todd McShay

ESPN Senior Writer