What three things do the Trojans need to do in order to get a win against Arizona State?
1. Be physical up front: This will be particularly important for the Trojans on defense. USC needs a game on defense where it has a physically dominant performance, and the Sun Devils are coming off a poor offensive performance last week against Oregon State. Look for Ed Orgeron’s position group to come out firing in this one. Conversely, the Trojans need to protect Barkley against an effective ASU pass rush led by Will Sutton.
2. Ride the Lee train: It’s hard to imagine how the Trojans could utilize Marqise Lee even more right now considering that he amassed 877 all-purpose yards over the last two weeks, but he has a hot hand and the team should recognize that. Continue feeding him the ball as often as possible while he is in this groove because he’s been a pretty unstoppable force lately.
3. Continue reducing mistakes: Last week saw good improvement from the Trojans in terms of reducing the number of penalties. If USC can also cut down on the turnovers this week, it would go a long way toward a victory.
1. Because ASU runs their own version of the spread, the Trojans defense needs to take what it learned from the Oregon film breakdown, adjust to those mistakes through practice repetition, and carry it over to Saturday’s game. Even though ASU’s offense isn’t Oregon, you’d have to have your head in the sand not to know that the Sun Devils will attempt to attack the Trojans at the weak spots that Oregon exposed.
2. Offensively, the Trojans' offensive line will have to be at its best to neutralize the tough Sun Devils front four. If Sun Devils standout defensive linemen Junior Onyeali and Sutton, among others, are allowed to control the game, Matt Barkley could be in for a long day. The Trojans' flashy wide receivers will also have to be ready to face what many believe is a very strong ASU secondary. Lastly, despite his standout numbers, Barkley cannot afford to throw interceptions or all his positive effects on the game may be neutralized.
3. Because it lost last season to the Sun Devils in Tempe, the Trojans will need to ignore ASU’s current three-game losing streak, all to ranked teams, and the prospects of playing UCLA the following weekend. A loss to the Sun Devils on Saturday would be catastrophic and would result in the Trojans being eliminated for the conference championship game.
1. Come together as a team: Having suffered two consecutive defeats , the Trojans have to come together and play inspired team football in all three phases of the game. They absolutely can’t afford to end up on the wrong end of the win-loss column for a third straight week. Veteran leaders such as Barkley, T.J. McDonald and Khaled Holmes need to shoulder this responsibility and make certain that the entire squad has put the Arizona and Oregon losses in the past, and that they’re ready to sell out for each and every other member on the team.
2. Own the line of scrimmage on defense: The Trojans’ front seven hasn’t performed over the last two games like it did earlier in the season. The defensive line, in particular, hasn’t gotten the push up front that we grew accustomed to seeing, and it struggled mightily in getting off its blocks against the Ducks. The USC front seven will need to penetrate the Arizona State offensive backfield and apply pressure to Sun Devils quarterback Taylor Kelly while also disrupting a run game featuring three talented running backs. Orgeron’s unit has to get in the head of Kelly so he doesn’t have his way with the USC secondary like Matt Scott and Marcus Mariota did.
3. Protect Matt Barkley: The Trojans’ offensive line will face the most fearsome front seven it’s seen since Stanford in Arizona State, and they’re the primary reason why the Sun Devils are ranked No. 7 in the nation versus the pass. Led by Sutton, they’re a fast, attacking bunch that averages 4.3 sacks and 9.1 tackles for loss per game -- both No. 2 marks nationally. Barkley needs time, and if he gets it, there has been evidence that the Sun Devils’ secondary can be exploited. It allowed two Oregon State receivers to eclipse the 100-yard receiving mark last week.