USC vs. ASU 2017: The matchup by the numbers

Harry How/Getty Images
Harry How/Getty Images /

The most interesting numbers to know ahead of the USC vs. ASU game include the Sun Devils’ incredible defensive turnaround and bad coaching memories in Tempe.

After an embarrassing loss to rival Notre Dame in Week 8, the Trojans will look to get back on track Saturday night against Arizona State.

While the loss hurts USC’s chances in the national title picture, the Pac-12 championship is still firmly within reach. The Trojans certainly control their own destiny, but will have to play exponentially better Saturday in Tempe.

Let’s take a look at some of the key statistics heading into this key Pac-12 South clash…

The Series

USC is 21-12 all-time against Arizona State, including a 41-20 victory last year in the Coliseum.

The men of Troy have a record of 10-7 in Tempe, where Saturday night’s game will be played. The last time USC and Arizona State played in Sun Devil Stadium, the Trojans came away with an impressive 42-14 victory.

All eyes will definitely be on head coach Clay Helton and his staff as they look to rebound from last week’s drubbing. Tempe has not been too kind for embattled USC coaches in the past.

A Tale of Two Teams

Arizona State was tossed into the “rebuilding” drawer this preseason and was picked to finish near the bottom of the Pac-12. At the start of the year, ASU hadn’t shown anything to make you think otherwise.

Starting 2-3 with nail-biting wins over New Mexico State and Oregon, the Sun Devils looked like they were going to fulfill their preseason prophecy. Then the bye week hit and Arizona State transformed from a bottom of the bucket team to arguably the best team in the South division.

ASU Defense Pre-Bye Week Rankings:

115th in Scoring Defense: 36.4 PPG96th in Rushing Defense: 190.6 yards/game124th in Yards/Carry Allowed: 5.78 YPC120th in Passing Defense: 293.6 yards/game118th in Total defense: 484.2 yards/game115th in Defensive passer rating: 154.33100th in Red Zone Defense: 90.5%111th in 3rd down defense: 45.5%91st in Takeaways: 5 total (1.0 per game)

ASU Defense Post-Bye Week Rankings:

3rd Scoring Defense: 8.5 PPG16th Rushing Defense: 100.5 yards/game31st Yards/Carry Allowed: 3.59 YPC16th Passing Defense: 147.0 yards/game7th Total defense: 247.5 yards/game1st Defensive passer rating: 81.073rd Red Zone Defense: 50%14th 3rd down defense: 25%48th Takeaways: 4 total (2.0 per game)

The Sun Devil defense has done a 180 degree turn since the bye week, limiting Washington and Utah to seven and 10 points respectively, forcing four turnovers in the latter game.

Fast Facts

  • ASU is sixth nationally converting on 83 percent of red zone appearances this season (23-of-24). The lone miss came from taking a knee at the end of the game against Washington.
  • The Sun Devils sit 13th nationally in red zone touchdowns scoring 18 touchdowns on 24 attempts, good for 75 percent. That’s actually a step down from last year when they scored on 43-of-47 trips to the red zone in 2016 at a clip of 91.5 percent, a total that ranked 10th in the nation.
  • USC still has not won a game in which Ronald Jones II carried the ball fewer than 15 times. That’s an ever-important stat as the Trojans resist running the football with their best player. Jones II had 12 carries against Notre Dame.
  • Arizona State has returned 16 interceptions for touchdowns under head coach Todd Graham, which could be extremely important as USC quarterback Sam Darnold only has made it through one game in 2017 without throwing an interception.
  • USC has a history of bouncing back the week after losing to Notre Dame. They did so with a 42-24 win over Utah in 2015 and a 19-3 win over Utah in 2013. Coincidentally, this is the first time since 2011 that USC hasn’t played the Utes immediately following the Irish.