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USC vs. ASU: Sarkisian Breaks Down The Sun Devils

The Lane Kiffin 2.0 game features a rebranded Trojan squad.

A fired-up Steve Sarkisian encourages his defense.
A fired-up Steve Sarkisian encourages his defense.
Shotgun Spratling/Conquest Chronicles

The USC Trojans have one goal in mind this week, don't repeat the embarrassing performance against Arizona State that sent USC down a wild spiral on the LAX tarmac. A lot has changed since then, but the Trojans' performance against ASU will speak wonders about the program's growth from that point to here in 2014.

Home at the Los Angeles Coliseum, the Trojans will rely upon efficient pocket passer Cody Kessler (10 TD, 0 INT) to resurrect the demons of a two-interception performance, including a costly third quarter pick-six against the Sun Devils last season.

Keep in mind, the Trojans have won their last seven meetings at the Coliseum (starting in 1999) and recent history also suggests many of the younger players will play much more free in front of the rowdy support of nearly 80,000 fans.

"We have to prepare for their scheme, they have a lot of them," head coach Steve Sarkisian said of game planning against ASU head man Todd Graham. "They have talented guys on both sides of the ball...more importantly than anything, we have to make sure we are preparing ourselves."

USC has not allowed a passing touchdown to this point in the season, and that will be tested to the largest degree this weekend against a talented Arizona State passing game. Even without the talents of All-Conference quarterback Taylor Kelly, who remains questionable with a right ankle injury, the Sun Devils threw for nearly 500 yards through the air last week against UCLA.

In the last meeting between the two teams in the Coliseum, Curtis McNeal ran for 163 yards and scored three touchdowns, Matt Barkley threw three touchdowns, Marqise Lee had 227 all-purpose yards and the Trojan defense allowed just 108 total yards over the final three quarters as No. 21 USC snapped a two-game losing streak while beating Arizona State, 38-17, for the 2012 Homecoming.

WHAT DOES THE SARK SAY

WHAT HISTORY SAYS

  • USC is also one of just six schools in 2014 that has not had a pass intercepted on offense, three of which play in the Pac-12 conference (Oregon, Washington).
  • Prior to this season, USC started 2-0 in league play 44 times since joining a conference in 1922. The Trojans went on to play in the Rose Bowl in 27 of those years. A win in 2014 could give this team an inside track at the winner-take-all game with UCLA for the Pac-12 South crown.
  • Last year in Tempe, Arizona State scored four unanswered touchdowns in the third quarter to break open a tight game and rolled to a 62-41 win over USC. In the process, ASU set a school record for points scored against the Trojans.
  • ASU averaged 8.7 yards per play to USC's 8.1 in the Tempe meeting. USC held the ball 33:34, but had four costly turnovers which led to 20 Arizona State points.
  • Keep an eye on the first quarter: The Sun Devils have outscored their opposition 341-152 in the opening frame under coach Todd Graham, including a 63-13 mark this season. Under Steve Sarkisian, the Trojans have bolted out to a 45-7 scoring clip.
  • USC has a 297-114-19 (.713) all-time record while playing in the month of October, beating the Sun Devils 19 of 30 times. That said, USC has lost two of the last three.
  • Arizona State has not won a game at the Coliseum since a 26-16 victory back in 1999, making it 15 seasons and seven straight trips to the Coliseum that ASU has come away winless.
  • Both these teams are young. The Sun Devils only have 8 seniors on the two-deep roster, one of the lowest totals in the nation. The Trojans only have 11 seniors.

Poll

Is this game a must win for USC?

This poll is closed

  • 89%
    Yes
    (168 votes)
  • 5%
    No
    (10 votes)
  • 4%
    Maybe
    (9 votes)
187 votes total Vote Now