The No. 18 USC Trojans will stay at home for the second straight weekend. They will welcome Arizona State on Saturday at 4:30 on FOX.
The Sun Devils are coming off of an embarrassing 62-27 loss at home to UCLA last Thursday. After missing the game against the Bruins due to an ankle injury, senior quarterback Taylor Kelly remains questionable with a game-time decision likely looming for Saturday.
Backup quarterback Mike Bercovici had spectacular numbers in place of Kelly last Thursday, throwing for 488 yards and three touchdowns but had two costly mistakes that resulted in 14 points for the Bruins. Last year’s 62-41 victory for the Sun Devils in Tempe saw the end of Lane Kiffin’s time at USC as he was fired the very next morning.
So, not knowing which quarterback will be starting, who are other players to watch for ASU?
Running Back D.J. Foster
A former USC recruiting target, the Scottsdale native chose to stay at home and become a Sun Devil and as a junior, D.J. Foster is having his best season. Foster is finally the feature back for the Sun Devils and offensive coordinator Mike Norvell loves giving Foster 25-30 touches per game.
Foster started the season with three-straight games of at least 170 total yards before struggling against UCLA. Against New Mexico on September 6, Foster ran for a career high 216 yards in ASU’s 58-23 victory. The 5’11" back is also second on the team with 16 catches and will be a safety net for either Bercovici or Kelly on Saturday.
Foster excels at finding open lanes and cutting up field and could be a problem if he matches up with a linebacker in the open field. Need an example? Just look back to last year. Foster scored on a 74-yard pass from Kelly last year against USC to give the Sun Devils the lead for good early in the third quarter.
Wide Receiver Cameron Smith
The Trojans secondary will be double-teaming Jaelen Strong all game on Saturday and they should as Strong had 75 catches for 1,122 yards and seven touchdowns last year. He is coming off of a 12-reception, 146-yard game against UCLA.
A big question mark coming into the season for the Sun Devils was who would establish themselves as the No. 2 wide receiver behind Strong. The answer might be Cameron Smith. The Coppell, Texas native is coming off of his best game of his young career in which he had a career-high eight receptions for 95 yards and a touchdown against the Bruins.
During his freshman year in 2013, Smith had 15 catches for 198 yards and two scores. Smith will line up alongside Strong or in the slot against USC and could find himself wide open if the Trojans backline gives too much attention to Strong.
Defensive Tackle Jaxon Hood
One of the reasons why ASU ranks 88th in the nation with seven sacks on the season has been the poor play of defensive tackle Jaxon Hood. After losing Will Sutton to graduation (2012 and 2013 Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year), Hood was supposed to become the star nose tackle on the team.
But through four games, Hood has been anything but the star, having struggled all season and has yet to pick up his first sack of the year. The Sun Devils have to put pressure on USC quarterback Cody Kessler on Saturday and Hood will be looking to have a break out game and be a force against a young USC offensive line.