There are a multitude of ways you can view USC's evening showdown with unranked Arizona State.
It's a chance to move past a month in which the Trojans finished with an overall mark of 1-3.
A time for a new coaching staff to once against establish November dominance.
But most importantly, it's a lasting opportunity to salvage a season, which in many ways, was already on life support before the season even kicked off in Hawaii on Sept. 2.
In a sense, beating 4-4 Arizona State shouldn't come as a daunting task. After all, it's been 11 years since the Sun Devils have beaten USC, and Dennis Erickson presently holds a 1-7 career mark against the Trojans, including his tenures at Oregon State and Washington State.
However, things are a bit different with the 2010 version of ASU football. In short, they have a quarterback, and for that matter, a good one in redshirt junior Steve Threet.
You may know the backstory on Threet, or maybe you don't.
The Michigan native initially enrolled at Georgie Tech in 2007 before transferring to Michigan before the season even began. As the starter for the Wolverines in 2008, Threet struggled, completing just 51% of his passes with a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 9:7.
Subsequently, with the arrival of Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson, Threet headed west and ended up at Arizona State, where he took over as starter heading into the 2010 campaign. And for a Dennis Erickson-coached team coming off two consecutive sub-500 seasons, it needed strong play from the quarterback position after two failed attempts at replacing Rudy Carpenter, who graduated following the 2007 season.
And so far, it's gotten just that from Threet, who leads the Pac-10 in passing yards per game with 406.13. With a completion percentage of 62.5 percent and 14 touchdown passes, there's a lot optimism surrounding Threet, and for good reason.
But he isn't perfect (see: 13 interceptions), yet he does do a lot of things that could pose problems for the Trojans' 98th-ranked pass defense. The Sun Devils have adjusted some of their offensive schemes over the past months, where instead of featuring a traditional pro-style attack, with a fullback and a tight end, they've become accustomed to lining up in 4-wide receiver sets as apart of the team's new spread attack.
Thus far, it's certainly paid dividends, as evidence by the team's near upset over Wisconsin in September, and the fact that the Sun Devils remain two wins shy of bowl eligibility.
If the Trojans are going to notch their sixth win of the season tonight, their top priority is to stop Threet. That's no secret. The primary reasons for ASU's success this year is due in large part to the play of Threet and the rest of the offense. Defensively, they're improved as well, as Vontaze Burfict has continued his rise as one of the elite defensive playmakers in the country.
But 'SC, with an offense that features Matt Barkley along with playmakers Ronald Johnson and Robert Woods, is going to score points. That's unquestionable.
However, it is reasonable to ask, whether they can stop Threet.
"If we can cover them and make him hold the ball or if we get a great rush so he can't get rid of the ball, we could make the game very difficult," Lane Kiffin told the media earlier this week. "That's something we've not done a great job of this season."
Despite past struggles, slowing down the Michigan transfer remains vitally important. A win hinges on it, and if Threet has another breakout performance, an upset is not out of the question.
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