Bumped. Another good preview. - J
After a disappointing loss to Oregon on Halloween Eve, many have predicted a USC meltdown with nothing left to play for, but here's five reasons the Trojans will avoid the slump.
1) Barkley will bounce back. Matt Barkley had his worst game of the season against Oregon, throwing just one touchdown, two interceptions and logging a QB rating of 58.5. That performance is well below his 106.1 rating on the season and looking back it will be an anomaly rather than the norm. The Sun Devil's pass efficiency defense is ranked 66th in the country while Barkley ranks 24th in passing efficiency, so the Trojan quarterback will be facing the weakness of the ASU defense.
2) ASU's offense is one dimensional. The Sun Devils have a great passing offense that must be supported by an efficient running game to keep pressure off the quarterback. Individually on the season their two leading rushers, Deantre Lewis and Cameron Marshall, average 6.5 and 4.8 per rush respectively. But they are inconsistent, putting up double digit per rush averages in some games while being held to paltry numbers in others. On Saturday, they are matched against the better half of the USC defense, it's run defense. That run defense got blasted last week, giving up more than 200 yards to Oregon's LaMichael James. But what is lost in those numbers is that the Trojan defense held James' to under four yards on half of his 36 rushes.
3) Steven Threet can be stopped. Threet has had a prolific year with the Sun Devils and he is about to face the 114th ranked pass defense in the country. But despite the ASU pass offense being ranked 16th, Threet and the Sun Devil passing game have plenty of weaknesses. For starters, when you jump from just pass offense statistics to pass efficiency statistics, ASU's rank plummets to 60th. Already this year Threet has thrown 13 interceptions, that's almost one for every touchdown. This season he has failed to throw at least one interception just twice. On top of that, the ASU offensive line has done little in the way of protecting their quarterback. Threet has been sacked 17 times this season.
4) The Sun Devils struggle on the road. ASU has only won a single game on the road. In three away losses they committed six turnovers and gave up ten sacks. Even in their one road win, a close one over Washington, Threet threw an interception and was sacked three times. The most important indicator though, is that on the road, the ASU pass offense performs well below it's impressive average.
5) Lane Kiffin will not let this team quit. Say what you want about Lane Kiffin, but the man demands a lot from his players and he does not let them get away with much. This week he has put players at several positions on notice that their jobs are not guaranteed. At this moment Marshall Jones, Chris Galippo and Michael Reardon are fighting for a chance to start. But even more than that, Jawanza Starling, Devon Kennard and Butch Lewis have that much more motivation to pick up their game. At the very least, I find it very unlikely that coaches like Kiffin, Ed Orgeron and Monte Kiffin would allow this team to give up on the season.