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 NetworksAll-time Series: USC leads 18-10Last 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.

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

USC’s Projected Defensive StartersDE Wes Horton #96 or Greg Townsend Jr. #93DT George Uko #90NT Antwaun Woods #99DE Morgan Breslin #91WLB Hayes Pullard #10MLB Lamar Dawson #55SLB Dion Bailey #18CB Nickell Robey #21SS Jawanza Starling #29FS T.J. McDonald #7CB 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 StartersWR Robert Woods #2TE Xavier Grimble #86 or Randall Telfer #82LT Aundrey Walker #70 and Max Tuerk #75LG Marcus Martin #66 or Abe Markowitz #50C Khaled Holmes #78RG John Martinez #59RT Kevin Graf #77WR Marqise Lee #9QB Matt Barkley #7RB Silas Redd #25 or Curtis McNeal #22FB Soma Vainuku #31

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