College Sports

SPORTS DIGEST: USC, UCLA to open college football season

Now this is what I’ve been waiting for.

No meaningless games featuring mostly scrubs and guys that will be unemployed once the regular season, like the NFL feeds us in the preseason.

The college football season begins in full force this weekend with both USC and UCLA opening the season with home games. The games all count in the won-loss column and in the rankings and polls that will determine what four teams will meet in the playoffs come January.

USC opens against Western Michigan Sept. 2 at 2:15 p.m. in the Coliseum. Western Michigan was the top team in the Mid American Conference last season when the Broncos were 13-1, ranked 15th in the final Associated Press pool and qualified for the Cotton Bowl, where they lost to Wisconsin.

The Broncos were 8-0 in conference last year and defeated two Big 10 teams — Northwestern and Illinois — on their way to their best season ever.

After the season, coach P.J. Fleck got hired by the University of Minnesota, so Tim Lester is the new head coach, getting the fourth-ranked Trojans on the road in the season opener. Enjoy the rest of your season, coach.

The Trojans are entering the second year of the Clay Helton coaching era. After a 1-3 start, the Trojans won their last nine games, including a 52-49 thriller over Penn State in the Rose Bowl.

Quarterback Sam Darnold is among the Heisman Trophy favorites as the season begins, but he is breaking in a new crop of wide receivers and may lean on tailback Ron Jones the first few weeks of the season.

The Trojans lost stars JuJu Smith-Schuster and Adoree Jackson to the NFL, but have plenty of depth to replace those players.

We should know more about the Trojans after week three because Texas and Stanford follow Western Michigan on the schedule.

UCLA enters the season with plenty of question marks, with the main one being can Josh Rosen bounce back from shoulder surgery?

A year ago at this time, Rosen was the one being touted for the Heisman Trophy. But he suffered a shoulder injury against Arizona State in the sixth game of the 2016 season and missed the rest of the year.

The Bruins won only one more game the rest of the way, a 38-24 win over Oregon State, and their 4-8 record was the worst of the Jim Mora era.

Rosen is back with something to prove, but he will be playing under the third different offensive coordinator in three years.

His first offensive coordinator at UCLA, Noel Mazzone, will on the other sideline this week as the offensive coordinator for the Texas A&M Aggies. The Aggies are coming off an 8-5 season last year, which included a 31-24 overtime win against the Bruins in last season’s opener.

UCLA hopes to turn that around this time in hopes of returning to the previous success under Mora.

Kickoff is at 4:30 p.m. Sept. 3 in the Rose Bowl.