USC gets set to face Arizona State tomorrow in a crucial Pac-12 South battle. Both teams enter with one loss, plenty of controversy, and the need of a win to launch them into the meat of the season. Who will get that crucial win on Saturday? Here’s what we here at Reign Of Troy think…
Michael Castillo | USC 17, Arizona State 12
It’ll be a defensive struggle from the outset, and look for both defensive lines to get penetration up front and force Taylor Kelly and Cody Kessler to think on their feet. Whoever can roll out and find secondary options in passing game like Xavier Grimble and Chris Coyle more efficiently, in addition to whether or not it’s Tre Madden or Marion Grice that has a solid showing on the ground, will be the difference. The Trojans, with depth in the running game edge ASU in Tempe in a smashmouth, hard-fought game.
George Dulcich | USC 20, Arizona State 13
Both offenses will struggle early and often as the front seven from both defenses will be able to put pressure on Kessler and Kelly. This will be Kessler’s first real away game in a hostile environment and expect to see penalties from USC early. The difference in this one will be USC’s ability to run the ball down field with Madden and Davis, wearing down the ASU defense. I expect a big game from Xavier Grimble and Randell Telfer who are going to need to be Kessler’s go to guys. However an early turnover could spell doom for the Trojan’s.
Alicia de Artola | USC 22, Arizona State 15
Both teams are hard to figure out. USC’s defense has carried them thus far, but will the Trojans be able to hang on with just defense on the road, where the offense will be facing crowd noise as well as their own internal troubles? Arizona State likely should have an extra loss on their record and got beaten down pretty easily against Stanford. Will that affect their mentality? I think ultimately the Trojan defense will set the tone for the game. With 50+ pass attempts in the previous two games, Taylor Kelly will be dropping back often, which means Morgan Breslin, Devon Kennard and the USC pass rush will be eyeing him like a piece of meat. As Lane Kiffin tries to run the clock from the very first snap with a heavy dose of Tre Madden, a sack-fumble returned for a touchdown could be the difference.
Oliver Twist | USC 35, Arizona State 37
This game is likely to come down to who wants it more. Both teams are looking to recover from bad losses, Arizona State’s being the more recent. Still, this is a game that both teams would like to have. The Sun Devils should be 1-2, but an officiating gift has kept them on the winning side. The Trojans cannot afford to have another offensive performance like they did against Utah State if they hope to win. Look for USC to come out firing on all cylinders, but don’t be surprised to see ASU makes a late push. USC’s inability to capitalize on a mistake may decide the outcome of this game.
Matthew Moreno | USC 27, Arizona State 13
I think USC will come out and rely on what’s been successful — their defense, and what’s been somewhat successful — their running game. As I’ve previously noted, this is USC’s first real road test and controlling the tempo of the game will be of the utmost importance. The offense may get off to another slow start but I don’t necessarily think we’ll see them stall as much as they did against Utah State. Of course that’s under the assumption the receivers and tight ends don’t continue dropping passes.
Another factor that will be interesting to watch is what USC will do should they win the coin toss. In their last two games they’ve won the coin toss and opted to receive in the first half and that’s led to mixed results. Considering the defense is the unquestionable strength of the team right now, should the Trojans win the coin toss, it would be in their best interest to defer to the second half. If the offense takes the ball first and doesn’t do anything with it, it may shift early momentum to ASU. In the end, I think the Trojans have enough moxy to pull away.