USC vs ASU: Previewing the 2016 Sun Devil Offense

Sep 16, 2016; San Antonio, TX, USA; Arizona State Sun Devils quarterback Manny Wilkins (5) looks to throw the football against the UTSA Roadrunners at Alamodome. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 16, 2016; San Antonio, TX, USA; Arizona State Sun Devils quarterback Manny Wilkins (5) looks to throw the football against the UTSA Roadrunners at Alamodome. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports /

With an explosive Sun Devil defense taking the field this Saturday, USC vs ASU could easily become a shootout at the Coliseum.

When USC makes its long-awaited return to the Coliseum this weekend — the beginning of a stretch in which the Trojans will play four of their next five games at home — they will be pitted against an undefeated Arizona State team.

Over its first four games, Arizona State has put an explosive offensive attack on display.

ASU defeated Texas Tech in a record-breaking shootout, 68-55, on Sept. 10 and has managed to keep its foot on the gas pedal offensively this season.

The Sun Devils have been no stranger to lighting up the scoreboard; here are ASU’s point totals in each of its’ first four games: 44, 68, 32, 51.

Here is an in-depth look at the the Sun Devils’ surging offense and its output thus far in 2016:

Leading the Way

Entering Saturday’s match up with USC, ASU possesses the highest-scoring offense in all of the Pac-12; they rank seventh nationally in scoring averaging 48.8 points per game.

A quick pessimistic side-note: USC owns the lowest-scoring offense in the conference a 22 points per game.

ASU has also been one of the more successful teams in the conference at establishing and excelling in its ground attack. At 236.5 yards per game, the Sun Devils currently rank third in the Pac-12 in rushing.

Behind new starting sophomore quarterback Manny Wilkins, ASU is ranked fifth statistically in the conference in passing with 271.2 yards per game and total offense at 507.8.

A Breakthrough Backfield

In ASU’s barn-burner of a Week 2 win against Texas Tech, junior running back Kalen Ballage had 185 all-purpose yards and scored eight touchdowns — tying the NCAA record for the most scores by an individual player in one game.

Ballage currently leads the Pac-12 with ten touchdowns scored this season and is expected to play this Saturday against the Trojans despite suffering a knee injury in the Sun Devils’ game against Cal last week.

Joining Ballage in the backfield for ASU is junior Demario Richard, who is currently the leading rusher for the Sun Devils with 348 yards on the ground through the first four contests of 2016. Richard was the sledge-hammer for the Sun Devil offense against Texas Tech, as he carried the ball 30 times for a total of 109 yards in the victory.

As mentioned, ASU currently has the third-best rushing attack in the Pac-12, despite what was considered a “suspect” offensive line entering the season. The Sun Devils are replacing four starters on the offensive front from 2015 — senior left tackle Evan Goodman is the only returning starter on the line.

When the ASU offensive line performs — as they have so far — the Sun Devils’ tandem of talented backs in Ballage and Richard are free to run wild against opposing defenses.

Wilkins and the Wideouts

Wilkins replaces 2015 starting quarterback Mike Bercovici this season.

In ASU’s 51-41 comeback victory over Cal last week, Wilkins finished the game 21-of-30 passing for 290 yards and a score through the air. He also rushed for 72 yards and three touchdowns in the victory.

“I am beyond impressed with Manny Wilkins and his pocket sense [and] his ability to create off pass attempts,” USC head coach Clay Helton said regarding the quarterback his team will attempt to contain Saturday. “A lot of [his rushes] come from drop back pass opportunities where he’s finding windows of opportunity, keeping his eyes downfield, but also creating yards   with his legs … he’s as good [a quarterback] as we’ve seen thus far.”

More from Reign of Troy

Leading the receiving corps. for the Sun Devils is senior Tim White, who has recorded 21 receptions for a total of 221 yards through four games.

N’Keal Harry, a freshman for ASU, leads the team with two touchdown receptions this season.

The Conclusion

This Sun Devil offense, led by offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey, has proven that it is more than capable of competing in a shootout. If USC’s defense fails — like it has on multiple occasions this season — to put pressure on the ASU offense, things could get ugly quick on Saturday.

If left to operate freely by the USC defense, the ASU offense could put a fork to Clay Helton’s perfect home record at the Coliseum this Saturday night.