After a conference-opener loss to the Stanford Cardinal,19th-ranked USC Trojans (2-1, 0-1) travel to Tempe to face off against the Arizona State Sun Devils (2-1). Can Justin Wilcox's defense stop Todd Graham's high-octane offense or at least slow it down and can the Trojans put the loss behind them or will they come out flat?
Previewing the Sun Devils
The Sun Devils are coming off of 34-10 victory against New Mexico last Friday, in which they held a 3-0 lead late in the second quarter. After Taylor Kelly graduated (he is now a graduate assistant with the team), Mike Bercovici has taken over the quarterback position. Bercovici, who threw for 1,445 yards and 12 touchdowns last year while Kelly was out with an injury, demolished the Trojans defense in 2014 as he threw for a career-high 510 yards and five touchdowns including the Hail-Mary to win the game. Through three games, the Calabasas, Ca. native has 799 passing yards and seven touchdowns to just one interception. After Jaelen Strong left for the NFL last year, the Sun Devils have yet to find a clear number one receiver. Sophomore running back Demario Richard is coming off of back-to-back 100-yard games after 107 rushing yards against the Lobos. The Trojans will need to watch out for Richard in the passing game as "Baby Beast Mode" had a 93-yard touchdown reception on Friday. On the defensive side of the ball, the Sun Devils return multiple starters led by former walk-on Jordan Simone. Simone leads the team with 29 tackles and is coming off of a game in which he as all over the field, compiling 10 tackles, two tackles for a loss, a pass deflection, a sack, and an interception against New Mexico. The Sun Devils lead the conference with 26 tackles for a loss but have allowed a conference worst 215 rushing yards per game. However, ASU has faced back-to-back triple option teams that combined for 119 rushing attempts in two games.
Previewing the Trojans
Sophomore sensation wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster is third in the nation with 434 receiving yards after his eight-catch 153-yard performance against Stanford. The Sun Devils are going to have to focus their defensive gameplan on Smith-Schuster, leaving weaker coverage on Steven Mitchell Jr., Darreus Rogers, and others. How about getting the tight ends more involved in the offense? Taylor McNamara and Tyler Petite have a combined five receptions for 31 yards and a touchdown this season. USC had close to 100 rushing yards in the first quarter on Saturday and 51 the rest of the game. Part of the reason why was penalties but the Trojans need to run the ball more against the Sun Devils, who have struggled against the run which I mentioned earlier. Apparently Tre Madden tweaked his knee in the third quarter and we will wait and see how Madden does in practice this week. The Trojans average 6.4 yards per carry and Justin Davis and Ronald Jones II will see an increased workload if Madden is out. USC is now 116th out of 128 FBS Div. I teams in third-down conversions after only converting 4/10 against Stanford. That will have to improve for the Trojans to win on Saturday. USC needs Kevon Seymour back especially since they are facing ASU's high-octane spread offense. USC needs to pressure Bercovici on Saturday, something they have struggled with this year with only five sacks. Freshman Cameron Smith had 12 tackles against Stanford and now leads the team 25.
The teams face off at 7:30 P.T. on Saturday on ESPN.