Utah State's Chuckie puts a scare into USC

LOS ANGELES -- Maybe it’s just the fact that when the name “Chuck E.” or “Chucky” is mentioned in these parts, thoughts to turn either a famous pizza chain or that devilish little critter from nearby Universal Studios.

Come Saturday afternoon, Lane Kiffin’s USC Trojans (2-1) won’t be eating a cheese pizza or having a fright night at the movies, but they will be served a steady diet of spread option evil, compliments of Utah State’s own version of Chuckie.

Meet Aggies junior quarterback Chuckie Keeton, a first-team All-WAC selection in 2012, who has a nefarious ability to run or pass in the dreaded spread option.

"He does everything,” said Lane Kiffin, the Trojans’ fourth-year head coach. “He's like the guy up in Seattle [Russell Wilson]. He just runs around making plays and he doesn't get rattled."

Clancy Pendergast, whose ability to stop the spread option was one reason he was brought in to be the Trojans’ defensive coordinator, and his defense will have their hands full with Keeton, who threw for 249 yards and five touchdowns -- all in the first half -- in last weekend’s 70-6 pounding of the Weber State Wildcats.

"Well, he's Heisman-worthy to me,” said Weber State head coach Jody Sears. “He's a good player; that's a good football team. I can't wait to watch him play USC next week. That'll be fun to watch."

Keeton is averaging 307.7 passing yards and 63.2 yards rushing per game this season and has thrown for 12 scores and run for another. The real eye-opener, however, is that he is completing 78 percent of his passes.

You can say all you want about the quality of opponent in Weber State, but Utah State (2-1) is heavily loaded with talent from last season’s squad, which finished 11-2 and a No. 16 ranking in the final AP Top 25.

The only major change for Keeton and his teammates from 2012 is that former head coach Gary Anderson departed for Wisconsin after last season’s successful run, but the basic system has remained in place.

Matt Wells, the Aggies’ offensive coordinator in 2012, replaced Anderson, and Utah State is still mighty potent on both sides of the ball. Both Wells and Keeton understand that the challenge of the Trojans in the storied Coliseum represents a golden opportunity for the future of their program.

"We'll be in a national spotlight,” Wells said. “It will give us a chance to continue to brand our image. It's about marketing from a recruiting standpoint. We've knocked on that door for four straight years and we'll see if these boys can knock it down.”

With the Trojans using the Utah State game as a last chance to prepare for next Saturday night’s Pac-12 South showdown at Arizona State, Wells and Keeton expect to see a USC team that will be up for the Aggies.

“They'll be ready to play, they won't flinch,” Wells said. “They've been on big stages before and it will be a fun game."

As for the 6-foot-2, 200-pound Keeton, he certainly isn’t shying away from what is at stake for his team and for him personally. In fact, he is throwing down the gauntlet in the direction of the Trojans and makes no bones about coming to Los Angeles.

"It's long overdue,” Keeton said right after humiliating Weber State. “There's been so much hype. We always take it one week at a time, but now the week that everyone's looking forward to is here. It's going to be a fun trip.”

At least verbally, Keeton shows no outward jitters, and he seemingly embraces the challenge, which isn’t exactly a surprise.

“We're playing college football and there's nothing better than going in to a big college stadium with a whole lot of tradition,” Keeton said. “Hopefully we come back with a win."

If Chuckie makes that happen, that would truly be a horror movie for USC.