(Photo: Scotty Bara/WCSN)
Regardless of USC’s 1-3 record, head coach Todd Graham is preparing for yet another high-powered offensive attack when Arizona State travels to take on the Trojans in the Coliseum on Saturday.
To make things more interesting, Graham also admitted that the Trojans’ current team doesn’t look too much different than it did in 2015.
The Sun Devils fell to the Trojans 42-14 in Tempe last season.
“Very similar team, very talented,” Graham said. “We will not play and have not played against better running backs, receivers, I mean they’ve got four or five receivers that are big time, this will be the best offensive line we’ve played against, their tight ends, I mean they’re very, very, very talented, so they look very similar in that regard.”
In addition, Graham doesn’t think the Trojans’ record is indicative of how talented a team they actually are.
Through the first four games, three of USC’s opponents have been ranked in the top 25 of the College Football Playoff rankings, while two, Alabama and Stanford, are ranked in the top 10.
“I just think they’ve played really good people and they’ve been in really close games,” Graham said. “Obviously they got beat pretty soundly by Alabama, but they played Stanford and, I mean, it was fairly close and Utah was a really close game. They turned the ball over, kind of hurt themselves, but they’re as talented as any team we will play.”
Head coach Clay Helton has since taken over for Steve Sarkisian, who was fired following USC’s victory over Arizona State last season.
Still, Graham doesn’t think that will make much of a difference coming into this year’s match-up.
“It [the USC offense] looks very similar to me,” Graham said.
Having since lost Cody Kessler to the NFL, the Trojans have had trouble moving forward at the quarterback position this season. It was Max Browne under center to start the year, however Helton moved on to redshirt freshman Sam Darnold against Utah and will likely deploy Darnold again this weekend.
“They run some read-zone with him [Darnold], very athletic, can run,” Graham said. “Both of them [Browne and Darnold] are very similar arms, throw the deep ball really well, hit the seams really well and I think both of them manage what their doing very well. Their similar, the difference is the athleticism.”
The last time the Sun Devils played at the Coliseum was in 2014, when the Trojans were ranked as the No. 16 team in the country and Arizona State was looking to bounce back from a 62-27 loss at the hands of UCLA the week prior.
The game came down to one final play, a 46-yard touchdown from Mike Bercovici to Jaelen Strong as time expired to seal a 38-34 victory.
On Monday, Graham reflected on that moment as he readies his team for its return to Los Angeles.
“I’d be a liar to you if I didn’t tell you that that’s a great memory of mine,” Graham said. “It’ll always be special to me and I’d love to go create another one.”