Game Day Notes - Arizona St.

USC can't possible lose two weeks in a row can they?

That pretty much seems to be the consensus from all the pundits and analysts. I agree with that assessment, but SC is far from being out of the woods after last weeks loss in Eugene.

I don't think I am breaking any earth shattering news that SC is officially in some sort of rebuilding/retooling mode. Plain and simple the road schedule, our youth and our thinning depth really exposed many of SC's flaws that many of us are not used to seeing in a Pete Carroll coached team. In reflecting on last weeks loss I simply do not think that the sky is falling. It is one loss, a bad one for sure, but that's the way the ball bounces...sometimes you need to get your teeth kicked in to get your mind straight.

I guess that makes me a sunshine pumper because I refuse to beleive that this is the begining of the end for USC. This is where Pete Carroll will earn his money...there is no guarantee that SC will win their last 4 games so he has his work cut out for him.But I am not too terrible concerned with the teams mind set. Pete Carroll knows how to rebound so I expect the team to be ready.

So, obviously with that rebounding mindset in place SC look's to get back on track and Arizons St.'s offense could be the perfect elixir for USC's struggling defense ...

USC's defense breathes a sigh of relief. Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli is in Palo Alto to play Stanford and can no longer torment the Trojans -- until next season, perhaps.

Arizona State quarterback Danny Sullivan is neither as efficient as Oregon State's Sean Canfield nor as mobile as Masoli. He has completed 54% of his passes with eight touchdowns and seven interceptions. Samson Szakacsy, who at one time committed to USC, is more mobile and could be utilized in goal-line situations as he was last week against California.

I watched a fair amount of the Cal/ASU game last Saturday and I didn't come away impressed. Sullivan made some plays but that was also against a Cal defense that both SC and Oregon shredded so as aeve as SC's defense is hurting in some areas I expect the defense to make some plays.

Injuries continue to plague SC right now, especially on the defense and that is PC's first challenge. He needs to plug those holes with players who are going to respond and pick up the slack...

USC's linebackers are still smarting, physically and emotionally, from the Oregon nightmare.

Middle linebacker Chris Galippo is fully recovered from a sprained neck, but Malcolm Smith is not on the trip because of a shoulder injury. Shane Horton starts on the weak side with Michael Morgan on the strong side.

All three linebackers need to play better than last week. It looked like these guys had never played before with missed assignments and missed tackles that needs to change this week.

Injuries also open the door for others to show us what they can do on a consistent basis. With Everson Griffen not making the trip his week Malik Jackson and Devon Kennard will get their chance to prove their worth.

First some news on Griffen...

Griffen, a junior defensive end from Avondale, Ariz., suffered a toe injury against Oregon. He did not practice this week, working instead with trainers on the sidelines with the hope of healing enough to play.

Griffen, however, did not make the trip.

"He woke up . . . a little bit worse maybe from the work they did [Thursday] so we just figured it would be best to treat him for three straight days," Coach Pete Carroll said Friday after the 12th-ranked Trojans' walk-through at Sun Devil Stadium. "We never thought he was going to make it to full speed, but he was trying."

Don't get me wrong, both Jackson and Kennard have shown us some nice things this season but this weekend they will get the majority of the work on the defensive line so now they can really show their stuff. They will also have some help...

USC received some rare good news on the injury front this week when defensive linemen Nick Perry (shoulder) and Armond Armstead (wrist) responded well to rest. Their availability should ensure a deep DL rotation.

The more help the better.

I think the D line will have a good showing today. ASU just doesn't have the same level of talent on the O line that SC has faced in the past and with Sullivan's average performance numbers I think SC can force him into making some mistakes...but there are no guarantees...SC needs to earn this one on defense today.

What could make this game close is ASU's solid defense.

Even though Matt Barkley didn't have a terrible game last week it certainly wasn't one of his better performances either...

Though Barkley did not turn the ball over until his final pass was intercepted, the freshman was far from stellar. He uncharacteristically underthrew one receiver. He also overthrew another for what could have been a touchdown. He completed only five of 16 second-half passes.

Barkley, who has passed for nine touchdowns with six interceptions, now faces the Pac-10's top-ranked defense, an aggressive unit that has a conference-best 13 interceptions.

More on the ASU defense in a bit...

I mentioned above that players stepping in for our injured starters need to step up and make some plays...one of those is TE Blake Ayles. Ayles had an opportunity last week to make a great statement in Eugene when Barkley's pass was just a little out of reach. I am not saying that it was Ayles fault that he didn't catch the pass but those opportunities need to be capitalized on to put opposing defenses on their heels. Barkley is still locking down his timing but Ayles has also missed some easy plays in previous weeks and he has committed some boneheaded penalties as well. With McCoy out for the foreseeable future and with his eventual graduation this is Ayles time to cement his position as the starting TE as the team goes into spring ball next season. These are the times when opportunities help position players' future on the team. This is Ayles' time and he needs to make the most of it!

Here is where the offense will earn their keep today...holding back this tenacious ASU defense.

Pitchfork Nation has a great take on how ASU will try to disrupt SC's offense...

1) Blitz, blitz, blitz.

Oregon and Washington, the two teams to beat USC this year and Oregon State, who kept it very close down stretch and have victimized the Trojans twice in four seasons, kept a heavy dose of pressure on the backfield all night.

Matt Barkley, for as poised of a freshman he is thus far, isn’t immune from pocket pressure.

This will be a sore issue considering that the Devils will come in shorthanded in the secondary tomorrow night and blitzing linebackers consistently will inarguably put a heavy strain on Clint Floyd, Pierre Singfield, Jarrell Holman and Deveron/Terell Carr.

[...]

2) Jam the wide outs.

If the Devils’ linebackers are busy wreaking havoc on the Trojans backfield, guys like Damian Williams, David Ausberry and Ronald Johnson will need extra special attention from the secondary.

This will need to be the game where the young guys on the final layer of the ASU defense must shine.

USC’s group of wide receivers isn’t as vaunted as in previous years. This group of pass catchers just aren’t in the same conversation as Steve Smith, Dwayne Jarrett and the multitude of others. They’re good hands-wise but they don’t have the speed that the Trojans have boasted at this position in previous years.

Lets take #2 first. I don't know if I completely agree with PFN's take on DWill and RoJo, (Ausberry is out and has not been a factor this season anyway). Damian Williams has been every bit the possession receiver that Steve Smith was but they do it differently. Dwill is the #1 guy for Barkley where SS was the #2 guy for Leinart & Booty. Ronald Johnson is more the Dwayne Jarrett type speedster but it is clear the last two seasons he has been the #2 guy for Sanchez & Barkley. The roles are reversed and the production is different so the comparisons made by PFN in my eyes are little off.

As for Barkley, last Saturday was the first time I saw any indication of "happy feet" back in the pocket. Barkley has an incredible pocket presence and is not easily rattled. Have opposing defenses put some pressure on him? Yes, but not he hasn't been knocked around like a pinball either. As PFN suggests, I would expect the ASU defense to blitz on almost every play but that has its consequences, it could wear the defense down faster than normal. look for a lot of short passing routes by SC if the ASU defense looks to bring the wood on a regular basis. This one is simple...Keep Burfict off of Barkley and I expect he will have another good outing. Also if SC gets a decent, not great, running game going it will keep the ASU linebackers from getting to Barkley as well.

Anyone betting the over/under on how many personal foul penalties Burfict gets today? You know Burfict has some attitude to show SC for not finding a way to get him admitted. People talk about SC being undisciplined but Burfict is in a whole other league...and it might even help SC in the penalty department.

On a side note here is some of the thought process in how the line is shaping up...

USC leads the series against Arizona State, 16-9 and the Trojans are 27-0 in November games under Carroll. SC enters with a record of 6-2 SU but just 2-6 ATS this year. USC is 1-7 ATS in their last eight conference games and road contests.

The Sun Devils are 4-4 overall, 4-3 against the number and 1-6 to the UNDER.

After the shellacking the USC defense took last week I look for them to rebound today against a mediocre ASU defense. The Trojans will do enough to win but getting the cover is another story. The strongest play is taking the 'under.'

Free Pick: USC-Arizona St Under 46½ (-110)

I think this guy meant to say "mediocre ASU "offense" " not defense.

Anyway, it should be a good one I will have the game thread up later...

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