Last year's game between ASU and USC went down to the wire (literally). With both teams playing under expectations, what can we expect in this huge September Pac-12 matchup? House of Sparky site manager Josh Nacion was kind of enough to take some time and answer some questions about the Sun Devils.
1) With news coming out Monday that Kalen Ballage is expected to play on Saturday, how will the running game be affected and how many snaps do you expect Ballage to see? Ballage's return is huge. It's probably the best thing to happen to the Sun Devils this season. I imagine his cardio must be shot due to recovering from mono and I'll guess he only takes 15-20 snaps on Saturday, but just his availability completely changes the dynamic of the Arizona State offense. Along with having De'Chavon expected to return, ASU has a lot of weapons with Demario Richard's overall running ability, Hayes' speed and Ballage's power.
2) The ASU offensive line has struggled, allowing a conference worst 11 sacks. Whats been the issue that the Sun Devils are having protecting Bercovici? Inexperience. Arizona State has had two new tackles in Evan Goodman and William McGehee, and they've been having problems keeping up with the offense's tempo along with blocking. It also didn't help that they had to face arguably the best defensive line in the country in Texas A&M in their first starts, so those 11 sacks allowed (eight of them against the Aggies) are a little inflated.
3) Bercovici destroyed the Trojans defense last year and Jalen Strong’s 10-catch, 202-yard, 3-TD performance was a main reason why. With Strong gone, who will be Bercovici’s top weapon on Saturday? It depends. Bercovici will probably look to senior wide receiver D.J. Foster, who just moved after playing three seasons at running back, at the slot. Tim White, a JUCO transfer, debuted only in the second game of the season and has scored in each of the two games he's played. If healthy, Bercovici may also lean on Devin Lucien, a senior who transferred from UCLA over the offseason.
4) The Sun Devils rush defense has been roughed up this year (albeit they have face two triple option offenses), how do the Sun Devils plan to slow down the Trojans rushing attack? ASU has to control the perimeter. The Sun Devils actually have been pretty solid against the running game and have done well against a more traditional offense in Texas A&M, but they're still prone to giving up big plays, especially on third downs.
5) If the game went down to an Hail Mary like last year, who would you bet on to make the catch? I'll surprise everyone by picking Su'a Cravens. As exciting that was for Sun Devil Nation, we all know Hayes Pullard should have jumped up and swatted it down.
6) Score prediction. I'll say 35-24 USC. As exciting as Ballage's return may be, I don't think it's enough to fix ASU's offensive woes that it's been having to start the season, and a lot has to do with the questionable scheme the Sun Devils have been running.
House of Sparky does a great job with all of their ASU content so go check out their website.