A game against the USC Trojans in Los Angeles is not an ideal situation for a team that just lost by 35 points the week before. Yet that is where the Arizona State Sun Devils find themselves.
The Sun Devils do get a few extra days to prepare after playing on Thursday but it may not be enough as they enter the most hostile environment they have seen this season.
Snapshot of USC
The Trojans are off to a confusing 3-1 start in 2014. Some had USC as a dark horse to win the national championship, pointing out the lack of depth, because of scholarship restrictions, as their biggest weakness. The only other big question mark for the Trojans is their offensive line which features two redshirt sophomore tackles and two freshman guards. Still, except for one game the Trojans have shown flashes of greatness.
After blowing out Fresno State, the Trojans got their signature win against Stanford in Palo Alto. Despite giving up 413 yards of offense, the Trojans won 13-10 on a late field goal in the fourth quarter.
The following week the Trojans lost on the road to Boston College 37-31. Traveling coast to coast, especially west to east, and losing is nothing new for teams in football. But what was shocking about this loss is that the Trojans were out-rushed 452 yards to 20. Boston College was able to use a power-run game with two tight ends to to create running lanes in a USC defense many consider one of the best in the country.
After a bye week, the Trojans blew out the Oregon State Beavers 35-10, holding Heisman candidate Sean Mannion to 15-of-32 passing for a mere 123 yards. The Trojans also held the Beavers to 58 yards on 21 carries even though the Beavers tried to use two tight ends.
This stretch of games has many wondering which is the real USC and not just because of the defense’s up and down performances.
Under new head coach Steve Sarkisian, a former offensive coordinator at USC, the Trojans are using a hurry-up, spread, pass-first offense. Against Fresno State the Trojans ran over 90 plays. The strange thing is, at times the passing game struggles even with top talent like quarterback Cody Kessler and Nelson Agholor, one of the best wide receivers in the nation.
Except for the Boston College game, the Trojans have looked great running the ball with Buck Allen who has 433 yards on the season and is averaging 5.4 yards per carry. ESPN analyst Rod Gilmore said during USC’s game against Oregon State, the Trojans are having an identity crisis, because they want to throw first and run second but are better when they do the opposite.
Players to Look Out For
Leonard Williams is a beast on the defensive line for the Trojans. He plays mostly at end but will also line up inside. Williams leads the team in tackles but he also eats up blocks, allowing other players to make plays.
Safety Su’a Cravens models his game after Troy Polamalu of the Pittsburgh Steelers and plays like it. Against Oregon State, Cravens was all over the field recording an interception, two tackles for loss, including a sack on Mannion, and early had several other takeaways. Cravens is listed as a safety but he is used more as a safety-linebacker hybrid.
Nelson Agholor is one of the best wide receivers in the country and could have a big day against ASU’s secondary. Agholor is second on the team with 358 all purpose yards and is dangerous in the open field, both after receptions and and on special teams making him a matchup nightmare for the Sun Devils.
ASU will look better than they did against UCLA, but the defense will likely struggle again with USC’s confidence renewed.
USC wins 35-17