USC Football Schedule Preview 2015: Scouting ASU


USC football faces stiff competition early in the Pac-12 slate, following up a key match up in the conference opener with a potentially season-defining game against Arizona State.

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The nightmares from last season’s devastating collapse against the Sun Devils at the Coliseum will not have faded when the Trojans travel to Tempe in September.

Here’s an early look at USC’s fourth opponent of the year:


Mike Bercovici takes the reins in Tempe full-time this year with the departure of Taylor Kelly.

The redshirt senior proved his worth against USC in the improbable comeback last year and had a ratio of nine touchdowns to two interceptions in the three games he started.

D.J. Foster’s move from running back to receiver means sophomore Demario Richard will need to prove he can handle the bulk of the carries for the Sun Devil rushing attack. With several solid performances under his belt as a freshman, Richard was clearly enough of a prospect to convince last year’s 1000-yard rusher for ASU to swap to a position of greater need.

Joining in on the action is Kalen Ballage, the latest running back-linebacker in the conference, whose power style should add another dimension to the Sun Devil offense.

At receiver, Jaelen Strong’s absence will need to be filled sooner than later. Unfortunately for the Sun Devils, Cameron Smith will be out for the season with a knee injury, leaving senior Gary Chambers to pick up the slack which isn’t covered by Foster’s position change.

UCLA transfer Devin Lucien could make a huge difference for ASU right away, but the remainder of Bercovici’s receiving options will be newcomers to the college stage.

Oct 18, 2014; Tempe, AZ, USA; Arizona State Sun Devils quarterback Mike Bercovici (2) against the Stanford Cardinal at Sun Devil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Tight end Kody Kohl could alleviate some of the pressure on the thin receiving corps.

The Sun Devils must replace two starters on the offensive line in 2015, losing All-Pac-12 first teamer Jamil Douglas and Tyler Sulka. Redshirt freshman Sam Jones earned first team snaps at left tackle in the ASU spring game.


The Sun Devil defense returns plenty of starters from a unit that finished in the middle of the Pac-12 in terms of total and scoring defense last year.

The major departures include defensive end Marcus Hardison, who spear headed the Sun Devil pass rush with ten sacks in 2014. Junior Edmond Boateng started five games last season on the other side of the line and will be called upon to raise his production levels from up front.

Meanwhile, Tashon Smallwood should become an even bigger presence on the line.

Each of ASU’s starting linebackers are due to return, including Laiu Moeakiola who logged five sacks as the Spur linebacker last year, and Antonio Longino, who led the unit in tackles.

The loss of All-Pac-12 first team safety Damarious Randall could be major for the Sun Devils, who now turn to former walk-on Jordan Simone to fill the void.

The cornerback position remains intact with seniors Kweishi Brown and Lloyd Carrington back for their final seasons.

With so many returning players on defense, the Sun Devils could certainly elevate a their middling defense from last season into the upper tier in the Pac-12

Special Teams:

Zane Gonzalez was a Lou Groza Award semifinalist last year, so ASU should feel very secure in their kicking game going into 2015.

Though kick and punt returner Kyle Middlebrooks is no longer available, there are plenty of exciting options for the Sun Devils to choose from to replace him.

Ballage served as an occasional kick returner last year while either Demario Richard or D.J. Foster could prove worthy of the job as well.

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Threat Level: Very High

Bruce Feldman’s body-blow theory states that teams will find it hard to play physically in the trenches the week after playing very physical teams like Stanford, win or lose.

That theory was on display when USC lost to Boston College last year and the very real concern is that it could become a factor again in 2015.

ASU is not the same kind of beat-you-down-in-the-trenches kind of team that BC turned out to be, but USC will have enough on their plate competing with the Sun Devils without adding physical tolls to the mix.

Granted, the Trojans had Arizona State beat before the final minutes last year, so learning how to beat the Sun Devils, who have claimed the last two meetings, could be as simple as learning how to finish. Still, there is no greater rival for the Pac-12 title and this game could decide the division before September ends.