USC vs. Arizona State Match Up


And now, the moment we’ve all been waiting for: The USC Trojans go on the road to face the Arizona State Sun Devils!

The Trojans have gotten comfortable in the Coliseum, but this game will be the Trojan’s biggest game yet, as it has serious implications about who will be the Pac-12 South Champions.

For USC, it will mean sticking it to the NCAA and showing them that even when we aren’t allowed to be, we are still the best.

For ASU, it will mean not being known as the team that got to go to the inaugural Pac-12 Championship because USC couldn’t.

But most importantly, it means that from here on out, the Trojans are playin’ no games! (No pun intended).

Though it hasn’t always seemed like it, the Trojan offense has put up some serious figures already this season. Matt Barkley has thrown for almost 900 yards and nine touchdowns over the past three games, and Robert Woods is shattering USC wide receiver records left and right.

After their first (mostly) complete performance last week, the atmosphere at practice has been one of determination, as the team is ready to repeat their success this week. The Trojans go into this game 3-0 and leading the Pac-12 South, and the Sun Devils are coming off of a sloppy defeat at the hands of the Illinois Fighting Illini.

Historically, fortune has been with the Men of Troy, who have bested Arizona State 11 times in a row, so you can bet that this year’s team is hoping to continue that trend.

In spite of that though, this actually should be a good match up, especially considering that the last time these teams met the Trojans pulled out a last minute, one point victory (34-33) after allowing ASU to crawl back into the game in the 4th quarter.

Former member of USC's famed Linebacker U, Brian Cushing

If there were a team that the Trojans wouldn’t want to face on their first road test, ASU would be it; Tempe is NOT the place you want to test a team’s road game nerves.

The Sun Devils have a more than capable quarterback in junior Brock Osweiler. Osweiler is a monstrous dual threat QB with playmaking ability reminiscent of Marcus Vick (without the off the field controversy that kept him out of the NFL). He can sling the rock with efficiency, having thrown for nearly as many yards as Barkley has (877).

If left to his own devices, Osweiler will anihilate our secondary, which—while it has rapidly improved—is still young and prone to giving up big plays.

However, as evidenced by last week’s performance, a good defensive front can shut him down. Hard. The Fighting Illini managed to bring Osweiler’s six-foot-eight self down six times, forced two fumbles, and made him throw  one pick, proving the old cliché that “the bigger they are, the harder they fall.”  I have no doubt that the Trojan front seven have taken note of this, and have every intention of repeating those stats.

The problem is that Arizona State comes into this game with the most experience in the Pac-12. Last year, the team graduated only 13 seniors, while returning 20 starters, including the entire offensive line.

This level of experience could serve as a neutralizing factor to the Trojan’s raw talent, especially when you consider that Osweiler and his main target Aaron Plfugard have seen just about every defensive look possible. Fortunately, the Wall of Troy has proven that they can shut down any team’s running game, so let’s hope that that ability extends to teams with experienced offensive lines.

Something else that might work in the Trojans’ favor is that ASU’s depth chart has taken a major hit. Defensive end Junior Onyeali—the defensive freshmen of the conference—is expected to miss this game and likely the rest of the season due to a knee injury he suffered against Illinois. The Sun Devils are also down two cornerbacks, another defensive end, and one of their starting safeties is questionable for this week.

The Sun Devils have a very good secondary, which means it should be expected that they will do their best to shut down Robert Woods. As we learned last week, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Over compensating to render Woods ineffective means leaving other capable playmakers wide open, so the Sun Devils will have their hands full containing all of our offensive threats.

Our O-line is improving little by little, and this week will tell fans a lot about whether we will be able to establish a running game against good defenses. And speaking of our running game, it us not yet clear who will be the starter, but we might see freshman Amir Carlisle make his collegiate debut.

Perhaps the biggest issue that the Trojans will have to deal with is the Sun Devils linebacking corps. Simply put, Arizona State has the best collection of linebackers in the country.

Led by returning league Defensive Player of the Year Vontaze Burfict, the Arizona State linebackers are a rare breed of speed, strength and playmaking ability not seen since the days of James Laurinitis and AJ Hawk at Ohio State. With our lack of offensive line cohesion and no true no. 1 running back, the game looks to fall on Matt Barkley’s shoulders.

Arizona State's best defensive weapon, Vontaze Burfict

This will probably be the closest game yet for the Trojans; I predict they will win 24-21, with ASU giving them a run for their money for a solid four quarters.

It is gonna get hot, hot hot, in Tempe (literally though: the kickoff temperature is said to be 97-degrees) when they kickoff at 7:15 p.m. This is a marquee game for the Pac-12 South, a must see for any and all fans of Pac-12 football.

It is fair to say that Trojans fans should be a little nervous going into this game, but remember guys: We are being led into Tempe by Matt Barkley, the same guy who, as a freshmen, silenced a sold-out crowd in the Shoe at Ohio State when he marched down the field in the final five minutes to secure a come-from-behind victory in his second game EVER as a Trojan.

Just like he did then, count on Barkley to leave no doubt of who he is, and what team he represents.

Game on.