USC (2-1) vs. ASU (2-1) 7:30 pm
ASU is 3-2 overall since 2010 against USC but has won the last two games (62-41 in ’13 and 38-34 last year). Since 2012, the Trojans are 9-8 overall on the road. This is the first PAC-12 game for the Sun Devils and USC will be playing their second straight PAC-12 game after last weekend’s loss to Stanford. USC is 13-6 overall against PAC-12 opponents since 2013. ASU is 14-5 overall against PAC-12 opponents since 2013 and 8-2 at home during that time.
The Trojans were stunned by Stanford at home and lost to the Cardinal 41-31. The Trojans are averaging 48.3 points per game and are passing for 349 yards per game. Led by quarterback Cody Kessler, the Trojans dominated their first two opponents Arkansas State and Idaho outscoring them 114-15. Kessler is completing 78.2% of his passes with 10 touchdowns and no interceptions. However, in last week’s home loss- the the team was forced to methodically work down the field in the second half as Stanford forced the Trojans to underneath throws. The Trojans will need a balanced attack on the road in Tempe this weekend to get the victory. USC is averaging 208 rushing yards per game and must get running backs Tre Madden (206 yards, 7.3 yards per carry, 4 TD’s) and Ronald Jones (188 yards. 9.4 ypc., 2 TD’s) involved early in the game plan. Last week, the Trojans fell behind and were not consistent running the football with a 155 yards effort last week. USC will be challenged this Saturday on the offensive line and must protect Kessler to give him time. On the season, USC has allowed 6 sacks through the first three games.
Defensively, the Trojans were burned by Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan who threw for 275 yards in the road win. The reason for Hogan’s success was the ability for Stanford to run the football. Entering the game the Cardinal were averaging 107 rushing yards per game but ripped the Trojans for 195 yards on the ground last weekend. USC is allowing 237 passing yards per game and 158 rushing yards per game and will need to force turnovers on the road. This season, the Trojans are +4 in turnover margin but were unable to create turnovers against Stanford. USC must be able to get pressure on ASU and on the season the Trojans have registered 5 sacks through the first three games.
Arizona State has not looked good early on in the season entering this game. The Sun Devils seem to be going through the motions after the team’s week one defeat to Texas A&M. Since that loss, Arizona State has struggled against Cal-Poly 35-21 (W) and New Mexico 34-10 (W). However, the team can get back on track with a victory over USC in a conference game. The Sun Devils are averaging 28.7 points per game (down from 36.9 points last season) and the issues seem to be with the offensive line in the running game. Arizona State is rushing for 157 yards per game (down from 169 last year) and throwing for 266 yards per game through the air. Quarterback Mike Bercovici has completed 61.9% of his passes for 799 yards with 7 touchdowns and one interception. In order to get the victory over USC the offensive line must give Bercovici time to locate his receivers. The offensive line has allowed 11 sacks, however, nine of those came in the week one lost to A&M. If running back Demario Richard can have success early on this weekend this will help open up the play action passing game for the Sun Devils. Wide receivers Devin Lucien and D.J Foster have been stepping up early on and will need big performances on Saturday. Lucien has 13 receptions for 147 yards and Foster has added 16 receptions for 122 yards and one touchdown. However, they need to stretch USC vertically and must loosen up the USC secondary. In order for Bercovici to have success on Saturday, ASU will have to throw deep and force the Trojans from covering the short to intermediate routes.
Defensively, the Sun Devils match up very well in the secondary against USC’s passing offense. Arizona State is allowing 23 points per game and is solid in pass coverage allowing 134 yards per game. The weakness this season has been the front seven in run support. Through the first three games, Arizona State is allowing 215 rushing yards per game and must do a better job against a solid USC offensive line. If the Sun Devils can force third down and long situations they have an opportunity to get pressure on Kessler. Through the first three games, the team has 7 sacks on the year. Led by linebacker Christian Sam, who leads the team with three sacks, Arizona State will look to create turnovers at home. This has been an issue early on as the team is -1 in turnover margin through the first three games. Last season, the team feasted off of turnovers and was +14 in turnover margin.
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Joseph Lisi a former ABC Sports college football researcher, is the owner of www.GOFORTHE2.COM. He is a member if the FWAA (Football Writers Association Of America), Maxwell Football Club and is currently the content editor at www.2FiveSports.com. He contributes regularly to www.Sid-Rosenberg.com and has been a featured guest every Tuesday night from 10:30-11:30pm EST on Yahoo Sports Radio With Ken Thomson (www.sportsxradio.com).
Joe has been featured on the FNTSY Sports Network and The Sid Rosenberg Sports Radio Show 640AM Sports (South Florida). You can follow him on Twitter: @Goforthe2.
Joe has a weekly radio show on www.blogtalkradio.com with former Georgia Bulldogs WR Corey Allen called: