Max Wittek and Cody Kessler will both play in USC's opener against Hawaii on Thursday.
Wittek, the RS sophomore, appeared in 8 games last year and started in USC's last 2 games (Notre Dame and Georgia Tech), he was a mediocre 36-69 (52%) for 388 yards with 3 TD's and 5 INT's.
Kessler is a RS sophomore as well who was only 2-2 last season for 9 yards while appearing in 10 games as the Trojans holder on all placekicks.
Kessler was actually the highest rated QB coming out of high school, but not by much (Kessler 71, Wittek 76).
Wittek has the size and arm strength over Kessler (Wittek 6'4 / 235, Kessler 6'1 / 215).
All those facts make it seem that Wittek should be the obvious choice for the starting job in 2013. Just by Wittek having the higher ceiling over Kessler made Wittek the backup QB in 2012 because the number of reps are so few in the backup position, arm strength and size made Wittek the choice for the role. When they were fighting for the backup position, mistakes can only be made in the scrimmages before the season begins, because once the season starts, Kessler and Wittek were limited to the small amount of reps they got in practice. With the little amount of reps, the negatives of a QB are hard to notice, and the obvious positives (arm strength and size) are easy to see.
Wittek finally gets to start the final two games of the USC 2012 season. Both losses, both below average performances. Even with those two games, Wittek undoubtedly has a huge arm and his upside is high going into the 2013 season.
BUT! There is a huge red flag when a team has a starting QB going into the offseason and then all of a sudden there is a QB competition. It was Wittek's job to lose and it looks like he's lost it. All the reports say Kessler has outplayed Wittek in the scrimmages and that Kessler seems to be the energetic team leader that Wittek is not. Kessler is also the more athletic QB (played basketball in high school where he average 29.5 ppg and had scholarship offers from UC Santa Barbara and San Jose State)
The team would vote for Kessler to be the starter and the coaches would as well. If I had to guess, the coaches already know that Kessler will outplay Wittek on Thursday against Hawaii. The only reason why it's even come this far is because it's not easy for coaches to write off their potential starting QB since last season, and name the QB who they planned never starting the starter. Kessler has had to have outplayed Wittek GREATLY in the offseason for there to even be a QB competition. Kessler will win the job on Thursday and Kiffin would agree with you if you asked him today.