The USC Trojans rake the road for a tough match up with the Arizona State Sun Devils. The Trojans are looking to bounce back from a blow out loss to No. 7 Oregon and looking to reach bowl eligibility with a win. ASU on the other hand is coming off a bye after dropping their last two games. A win for both will go a long ways moving forward. Here are some keys to a USC win on Saturday.
Take care of the ball
USC went up 10-0 before turnovers done them in moving forward. Oregon score 28 points off four Kedon Slovis turnovers. While two of his interceptions were deflected off of his receivers hands, his other two came from an ill advised throw that was picked off and returned for a touchdown and a fumble when the Trojans were in position to score. This week USC must do a better job at taking care of the ball. The Sun Devils recovered 11 fumbles, but only has 3 interceptions all season. They’re also + 7 in the turnover margin while USC have only come out on the plus side once this season. Against an aggressive Sun Devils defense, the turnover margin is key. Slovis can’t afford to turn the ball over this week.
Take advantage of good opportunities and keep your foot on the gas
On the road you must take advantage of good opportunities when given. This applies to USC too. Last week USC had chances to extend their lead over No. 7 Oregon early, but squandered away with mistakes. This time USC can't afford to suffer the same fate. The Trojans must take advantage of every opportunity given to then against the Sun Devils. They also have to keep their foot on the gas peddle if they have an early lead. Herm Edwards’ team bring a lot of fight to their games just like USC does. They can’t allow ASU to linger in the game or else they’ll risk having a long afternoon in Tempe.
Contain Eno Benjamin
Arizona State running back Eno Benjamin is back and has the potential to cause havoc against USC’s defense that already struggles against the run. Last year Benjamin gashed the Trojans for 185 yards and 2 touchdowns in the Sun Devils victory over USC. Against UCLA he only rushed for 46 yards on 13 carries. This comes after the junior running back went three straight games with 100 yards or more rushing. USC run defense sits at No. 10 in yards allowed per game with 184 yards per game. However, the Trojans will likely get Drake Jackson and Talanoa Hufanga back which helps matters a little better. One way or the other, Benjamin can’t have another outstanding game against the USC defense.
Pressure and fluster the quarterback
Right now Arizona State’s quarterback situation is in limbo for the game. Sun Devils freshman quarterback Jayden Daniels status is a game time decision after injuring his knee against UCLA. The Sun Devils back up quarterback is Ethan Long, who is also a true freshman. USC has prepared as if Daniels is playing on Saturday afternoon, however regardless who lines up under center for ASU, the Trojans must create pressure on the quarterback. Daniels scrambling ability could give USC fits which isn't knew given the Trojans inability to contain scrambling quarterbacks. USC does a great job getting to the quarterback and currently has 24 sacks on the season. One of the best in the Pac-12. The ASU offense has struggled the last two games, USC can add to it by getting into the backfield.
Block out the noise and finish strong
USC has seen a lot of outside noise all season, but has done well blocking it out. With a new athletic director coming in and head coach Clay Helton’s job status not in great standing, they must continue to do so. Despite no longer holding their own destiny in the Pac-12 south, USC still playing to finish strong the last three games and to make at least a decent bowl. Something that wasn’t done last season. The morale of the team took a huge hit after being blown out at home to No. 7 Oregon. The question is what is the team’s morale heading into this weekends game? That will be answered soon.