Gameday Football Preview: USC vs. ASU


Original photographs by Kirby Lee and Scott Olmos, US PRESSWIRE. Photoshopped by Michael Castillo, Reign Of Troy.

USC Trojans vs. Arizona State Sun Devils

Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum | Los Angeles, Calif.
12:00 PM Pacific | Pac-12 Networks

All-time Series: USC leads 18-10
Last meeting: Arizona State 43, USC 22 in 2011

A week ago, the Trojans not only played their best offensive game in years, they played their worst defensive game in the history of the university. Luckily for the Trojans, UCLA knocked off Arizona, allowing USC to re-gain control of their destiny in the race in the Pac-12 South. To get to a chance for a rematch with Oregon or Stanford, or even a battle with Oregon State, they’ll have to defeat Arizona State and UCLA in succession, something they’ve done before to win a conference championship.

Arizona State comes into the Coliseum riding a three-game losing streak and in the midst of what has become a yearly tradition of fading in the second half of the season. With a win, they can hold out hope to winning the South and positioning themselves for a quality bowl game, though a loss likely forces the Sun Devils to beat Washington State next week to be bowl eligible.

Both teams are down, both are talented and both are desperate for a win to keep them in the Pac-12 South race. Something’s got to give.

Gameday links

When ASU has the ball…

Last season under UCLA’s Noel Mazzone, the Arizona State Sun Devils looked like an offensive juggernaut at times, as they began the season with a 6-2 record and looked to salvage Dennis Erickson’s tenure in Tempe. Then the second half of the season sent ASU into a perennial tailspin and they ended up with a 6-7 record after losing the MAACO Las Vegas Bowl to Boise State. This year, under first-year head coach Todd Graham, no one knew what to expect with ASU. Quarterback Brock Osweiler declared for the NFL Draft early and although running back Cameron Marshall returned after a 1,000-yard season, there weren’t any telling signs about their viability in the Pac-12 South. The result has been a surprising offensive year by a variety of young players and a bright future for ASU, headlined by quarterback Taylor Kelly. The dual-threat sophomore is the most mobile signal caller in Tempe since Jake Plummer and he’s been able to put up solid numbers and get into the statistical upper echelon of Pac-12 quarterbacks.For more on Arizona State’s offense, click here.

Last week, USC opted not to play defense. They gave up more than 700 yards to Oregon, and 62 points, which was good for the most in school history. Whether or not it was the Ducks’ speed, system, effectivess or Nike swag that gained all of those yards, it was astounding for the Trojans to be so enept. After two 600-plus yard games on defense, they’ll need a big showing to prove that they can get to the Pac-12 title game, and it’ll require the big names to step up. Dion Bailey, T.J. McDonald and Morgan Breslin anchor the USC defense, and they’ll need to grab the unit by the scruff of the neck to get the team back to playing inspired football. They have the talent without question, it comes down strictly to execution. Oh, and you know that Marqise Lee guy? Yeah. He might play defense.

ASU’s Projected Offensive Starters:
XWR Rashad Ross #15
YWR Kevin Ozier #82
ZWR Jamal Miles #32
LT Evan Finkenberg #62
LG Jamil Douglass #74
C Kody Koebensky #67
RG Andrew Sampson #72
RT Brice Schwab #71
TE Darwin Rogers #17
H Chris Coyle #87
QB Taylor Kelly #10
TB Cameron Marshall #6
RB D.J. Foster #8

USC’s Projected Defensive Starters
DE Wes Horton #96 or Greg Townsend Jr. #93
DT George Uko #90
NT Antwaun Woods #99
DE Morgan Breslin #91
WLB Hayes Pullard #10
MLB Lamar Dawson #55
SLB Dion Bailey #18
CB Nickell Robey #21
SS Jawanza Starling #29
FS T.J. McDonald #7
CB Torin Harris #4 or Josh Shaw #26

When USC has the ball…

USC scored 51 points on Oregon last week with a game plan predicated on the idea of outscoring the Ducks. It nearly worked, as the Trojans put up 615 yards, just three less than they had the week before at Arizona. Barkley threw the ball 54 times last week and with ASU’s rush defense leaving much to be desired, it could be a week for the Trojans to mix in some more Silas Redd, who hasn’t hit the 100-yard mark since playing at Washington four weeks ago. At receiver, Marqise Lee is proving that he could be one of the best receivers in football, not just at the college level, as he’s had 28 catches for 502 yards and four touchdowns the last two weeks. Nelson Agholor emerged for the Trojans, having six catches last week, and if he continues to be a big part of the offense, USC will be able to roll three receivers with effectiveness, giving them the most talented and deepest receiver corps in the nation.

Nearly every narrative about USC’s homecoming matchup with ASU this weekend involves the “Clash of the Titans” theme of Arizona State’s No. 1 Pac-12 pass defense challenging the No. 3 Pac-12 pass offense of the Trojans, and a unit that’s put up nearly 1,000 passing yards the last two weeks. Even Coach Lane Kiffin mentioned ASU’s exalted pass defense standings when talking to the media this week, and the Visor has the stats to back him up. ASU is No. 1 in the Pac-12 in total passing yards allowed, passing yards allowed per game, opponent quarterback rating, and opponent completion percentage. They are also bringing the conference’s second best defense into the Coliseum, while currently being second in the conference in sacks and the leaders in yards lost.  Defensive tackle Will Sutton is said to be 100 percent after suffering a bone bruise against Oregon, and will certainly boost the Sun Devils in their run defense and give their pass rush some extra life.For more on Arizona State’s defense, click here.

USC’s Projected Offensive Starters
WR Robert Woods #2
TE Xavier Grimble #86 or Randall Telfer #82
LT Aundrey Walker #70 and Max Tuerk #75
LG Marcus Martin #66 or Abe Markowitz #50
C Khaled Holmes #78
RG John Martinez #59
RT Kevin Graf #77
WR Marqise Lee #9
QB Matt Barkley #7
RB Silas Redd #25 or Curtis McNeal #22
FB Soma Vainuku #31

ASU’s Projected Defensive Starters:
DEVIL Carl Bradford #52
NT Jaxon Hood #92
DT Will Sutton #90
DE Junior Onyeali #5
SPUR Chris Young #21
SAM Steffon Martin #2
WILL Brandon Magee #8
BC Osahon Irabor #24
BS Alden Darby #4
FS Keelan Johnson #10
FC Deveron Carr #1
Note per ASU game notes: BC- Boundary Corner; BS- Boundary Safety; FS- Field Safety; FC- Field Corner

Game Notes

  • For the third straight a week, the Trojans seek the program’s 800th all-time win. The 700th win was against Stanford back in 2003. USC is 27 wins behind Oklahoma for 8th on the all-time list, while Michigan’s 900th win last week against Michigan State extended their record in college football.
  • Arizona State has not won at the Coliseum since 1999, when it was quarterback John Fox at the helm of the USC offense.
  • The noon-time kickoff is the earliest start at the Coliseum since 1998, when the Trojans played Purdue in the Pigskin Classic. That game was notable for not only being Carson Palmer’s first game, but his first comeback. Palmer replaced Mike Van Raaphorst in the second quarter and led Troy to a win over a Boilermakers team led by Drew Brees.
  • Per USC’s game notes, this only the second time since 1980 that Arizona State will be the only school that play the Trojans with the word ‘state’ in their name. Last year was the first, and next year USC gets Utah State, Oregon State, Washington State and this same ASU team.
  • This is Arizona State’s fourth straight game against a team currently ranked in the AP Poll, and it’s the third out of four weeks that they’ve played a team that was ranked on the week they’ve played them.
  • Calling the game today for the Pac-12 Networks is the No. 1 broadcast team of Ted Robinson and Glenn Parker, with sideline reporter former UCLA Bruin Ryan Nece, who is also known as Ronnie Lott’s son.

Tags: Arizona State Sun Devils Football USC Trojans