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Utah State QB Chuckie Keeton gets big stage vs. USC defense


Initial impressions of the pairing of new defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast's 5-2 scheme and USC's collection of gifted athletes have been nothing short of brilliant, allowing just 21 points in three games. The Trojans rank second in the FBS in rushing defense, third in sacks, fourth in total defense and sixth in interceptions.

Then again, USC hasn't faced an offensive weapon comparable to dynamic Utah State quarterback Chuckie Keeton yet. That will change this Saturday, when the Keeton and the Aggies come to Los Angeles.

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Keeton has thrown for 923 yards and 12 touchdowns with one interception, completing 78.1 percent of his attempts through three games. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound junior is also the team's leading rusher, with 187 yards and one touchdown (6.7 yards per carry).

In his first clash with the Pac-12 earlier this season, Keeton had 399 yards of total offense, accounted for three touchdowns and memorably scrambled for a first down without his shoe in a 30-26 loss at Utah.

Keeton knocked off the Utes last season and nearly directed an upset of then-defending BCS champion Auburn as a true freshman in his first-ever college game, so he has plenty of experience on the biggest of stages. It shows in his poise and decision-making, playing in such a way that descriptions of Keeton as a bigger Russell Wilson are almost a given.

USC head coach Lane Kiffin even compared Keeton to the Seattle Seahawks' quarterback earlier this week.

"You can't tackle him, he runs around and makes every throw, he doesn't seem to get rattled and he plays great in big games," Kiffin told the Los Angeles Times. "This is a really special player."

So special Utah State has even launched a #Chuckie4Heisman campaign online, a movement that could pick up steam with a brilliant performance against the talented USC defense in front of a national television audience and reinforce Keeton's credentials as a potential NFL quarterback at the same time.

Follow Dan Greenspan on Twitter @DanGreenspan.

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