Road underdogs according to Las Vegas lines, the Trojans will be playing agaisnt the grain of expectations for the first time all season. Obviously the pressure to win and regain stature in the conference is certain, but this week will truly test the development of this offense, facing tough conditions in a loud and intense road atmosphere.
HISTORY SAYS USC SHOULD WIN:
-Last year in the Coliseum, TB Curtis McNeal ran for 163 yards and scored three touchdowns, QB Matt Barkley threw three of his own on offense. Biletnikoff-winner Marqise Lee dropped 227 all-purpose yards and teh USC defense came to play, only allowing 108 total yards just one week after yielding 62 to Oregon defeating ASU 38-17 on homecoming weekend at the Coliseum. This was USC's final victory in 2012.
-USC has a 171-42-8 (.792) all-time record while playing in the month of September and leads the all-time series 19-10 over Arizona State including the most recent 10 of 11 streak under the Carroll and Kiffin era's here at USC.
-Cody Kessler leads the passing attack which went 13-27 last week against Utah State, fading a tad from the near-perfect passing clip summoned up against Boston College. Tre Madden (leading the team with 455 rushing yards) fell just seven yards short of starting the season with 100-plus yards in each of the first four games. Xavier Grimble was the main beneficiary of the extra passing attempts, reeling in his first touchdown of the season.
-Taylor Kelly directs an ASU offense that ranks eighth nationally in passing while RB Marion Grice aligns the backfield toping the country in scoring (16.0) and is 20th-overall in all-purpose yards. Grice's counterpart in the backfield with D.J. Foster as the nation's third-best tandem in terms of production, returning this season.
-The Trojans rank 11th in the country in scoring defense (11.0) and lead the nation in red zone defense (.400), are second in tackles for loss (9.5) and fourth in both total defense (230.5) and sacks (4.00) per contest.
-Under Todd Graham, ASU has had an average starting yard line of its own 36.8 in 10 victories compared to a starting yard line of the 23.6 for their opponents in such contests. Conversely, in losses the opponents have an average starting field position of the their own 34.5 yard line compared to ASU starting at its own 29.8.
FUN FACTS FOR GAMEWEEK:
-USC has four players on its roster from Arizona (OLB Devon Kennard of Desert Vista HS, COG Cyrus Hobbi of Saguaro HS, SNP Peter McBride of Chaparral HS and S John Auran of Brophy College Prep)
-Arizona State features 39 players from the Golden State of California, most notably Pac-12 defensive player of the year Will Sutton, who anchors a much-improved defensive line.
-USC defensive coordinator/secondary coach Clancy Pendergast attended Tolleson (Ariz.) High and also was the defensive coordinator of the Arizona Cardinals for five seasons (2004-08) including a rather forgettable trip to the Super Bowl losing on a game-winning drive to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
-The Trojans lead the all-time series against Arizona State, 19-10 including last year's victory at the Coliseum (the first 12 PM kickoff time this decade). In recent times however, USC is 12-1 since 2000 with ASU's lone victory coming in 2011 in a 43-22 rout against USC to end an 11-game losing streak.
PENALTIES COULD SWING THE CONTEST:
-Todd Graham has had a knack for having some of the most disciplined teams in the nation when it comes to penalty yards. In each of his seven seasons as a head coach, Graham’s teams have been consistently ranked among in the top half of the least penalized teams in the country in both yards and penalties per game. Last season, the Sun Devils finished 10th in fewest penalties (4.23) and eighth in fewest penalty yards per game (34.9).
-Lane Kiffin meanwhile, has struggled to engage a disciplined program in terms of penalties from his first days on campus. Here are the penalties and yard totals for USC in each of their first four games: 9-75 (Hawaii) 3-19 (WSU) 10-100 (BC) 8-58 (USU). Overall this season, USC ranks amongst the ten worst in accumulating flags.
FINAL EARLY PROSPECTUS NOTE:
-Following early-season losses in conference play, the Sun Devils and Trojans enter the battle in Tempe with 0-1 records in conference certainly needing a win to preserve any real hope of capturing the Pac-12 South crown. Saturday nights 7:00 PM slate will be filled with drama and fireworks, given the Pac-12 officiating crew and their slew of misfortunate calls along with the desperation hopefully exerted by each club on the gridiron towards victory.