After dropping a 31-27 nail bitter on the road to Utah, The USC Trojans find themselves at 1-3. This week they return to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum to host the Arizona St. Sun Devils. Last year the Trojans defeated the Sun Devils in a 42-14 route, however Arizona St won the last meeting in Los Angeles thanks to a last second Hail Mary.
Arizona State is coming of a 51-41 victory against Cal last week. The Sun Devils had to play from behind once again and rely on their defense to make a few key stops and force a few late 4th quarter turnovers to walk out move to 4-0 on the season. Arizona State is led by quarterback Manny Wilkins, who is already passing for over 1,000 yards and can make plays with both his feet and his arm.
USC managed to show major improvement offensively in their loss to Utah last Friday night. The Trojans got contributions from Darius Rodgers, Steven Mitchell, A pair of Tight Ends, and also got JuJu Smith-Schuster heavily involved with the passing game. The running game was the biggest key to USC moving the ball down the field. Justin Davis had a big game, rushing for 126 yards on only 10 carries and averaged 12.6 yards per carry. Adoree’ Jackson also returned a kickoff early in the game. The down side to the USC offense was the three first quarter fumbles and the late game penalties.
Clay Helton started redshirt freshman Sam Darnold and he didn’t disappoint. Darnold displayed his passing ability by spreading the ball around and attacking the Utes secondary down the field. He also showed his mobility by making a few plays with his feet. With his performance last Friday night, Sam Darnold took hold of the starting quarterback job.
Arizona State quarterback Manny Wilkins struggled early on against Cal; however he took charge of the offense during the second half and helped vault the Sun Devils past the Golden Bears. Wilkins threw for 290 yards and a touchdown, However he had 3 scores on the ground.
The USC defense once again had issues on the defensive line. Utah defeated USC at the line of scrimmage and was able to move the ball on the ground as well as protect Troy Williams really well. The USC secondary was also beat by slants routes and Clancy Pendergast appeared to make no adjustments. This week they’ll face an Arizona State offense that’s a tale of two teams. The Sun Devils offense tends to start slow in the first half and then pick things up in the second. This will be the highest scoring offense the USC defense will face. Clancy Pendergast and the defense will have to keep the Sun Devil offense down if they get off to their usual slow start. If they keep Manny Wilkins contained and makes life difficult for him in the backfield then the Arizona St offense will struggle.
While Arizona St has shown that they can score, their defense has had a hard time stopping teams from scoring. In all four games the Sun Devils have struggled to stop the pass. USC has a philosophy where they want to establish the running game. Look for USC to keep on track with their balanced attack especially after successfully running the ball the last two games. USC has to eliminate the turnovers and clean up the penalties, two of the things that played a key factor in the loss to Utah.
If the Trojans want to turn it around this season, then knocking off Arizona State at home would be a start. ASU is no slouch by any means so USC shouldn’t come into this game thinking the Sun Devils won’t put up a fight. They’ve come from behind to win games before and have a 4-0 record for a reason. This could be another wild showdown for the Trojans. Should USC lose to the Sun Devils again then the leash for Clay Helton could get a lot shorter.
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