Here is our Q&A with House of Sparky. These are their answers to our questions.
1. Assess Todd Graham's performance thus far.
Despite the fanbase's recent gripes about the three-game skid, I feel that Todd Graham has really done a great job in his 11 months here. He's dramatically turned around the on and off the field culture of the program, instilled much needed discipline (from dead last in penalties last year to 5th best), nabbed several big time recruits and has ASU likely headed to a bowl, which has far exceeded most every preseason expectation. There's been the rough patches that any new regime can expect to face, but all in all, the general feeling is that Graham has the Sun Devils on track and ahead of schedule.
2. Quarterback Taylor Kelly has looked impressive at times, while also gone through some struggles. Talk about his overall play in his first year as a starter.
For a guy that most expected to have no shot at the job coming into camp, Taylor Kelly has been very impressive for most of the year. He has some good tools in a live arm, good short-to-intermediate accuracy and excellent mobility, but his intangibles have been exceptional. He has shown great poise and command of the offense, and on several occasions has some clutch playmaking ability. However, he's also struggled mightily in the face of defenses that bring a lot of pressure, notably Missouri, Oregon and Oregon State. Last week was his worst game of the season, and despite being sacked just twice, he was clearly rattled and the offense ground to a halt. Kelly has shown the ability to bounce back this year, and for ASU to have any chance, he'll need to rebound in a huge way on Saturday.
3. Given a lot of people have focused on the Sun Devils' offense with Graham installing the spread offense, where does the play of the defensive unit stand? Do you feel that side of the ball is a bit underrated?
The defense has really been the team's strength. New defensive coordinator Paul Randolph installed a new 3-4 scheme that is relentless in bringing pressure from all angles, and it's worked. The Sun Devils rank second in the nation in both sacks and tackles-for-loss, and has been ranked in the top 15 nationally in total defense for much of the year. However, the secondary has really been exposed the last few weeks, and unless the front seven can generate a lot of pressure on Matt Barkley, it could be a big night for USC's passing game.
4. Give a player or two on both offense and defense that could give USC fits and why they could present problems.
Offensively, true freshman running back D.J. Foster has become the offense's best weapon. He's fast, elusive and is very versatile. The team lines him up in the backfield and as a slot receiver, and Foster is the team's leading rusher and arguably their most effective receiver as well. Fellow running back Marion Grice is a similar dual threat, especially on screen passes, and has 13 total touchdowns. Defensively, everyone knows about All-American candidate defensive tackle Will Sutton, which has somewhat overshadowed the play of "Devilbacker" Carl Bradford. Bradford has been strong all year from the position, which is a hybrid defensive end/linebacker, and has amassed 7.5 and 12 tackles for loss. They will line him up all over, and he's very explosive to the ball, and his play will be critical for ASU.
5. Prediction on the game? Which team will snap their respective losing streak?
ASU has a chance to win this game if they are able to consistently knock Barkley around, limit the damage of Lee and Woods, and be perfect in the turnover department. That being said, I don't think they'll be able to do all of those things, and USC is just too talented to keep up with for 60 minutes. I think this game is a bit of a shootout with USC winning 45-31.
Kickoff is scheduled for 12 p.m. and the game will be televised on the Pac-12 Network.