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Thursday, September 26, 2013
USC roundtable: Facing Arizona State

By WeAreSC

What is the key matchup for the Trojans game against Arizona State?
Garry Paskwietz: There are a couple good options to choose from in this one but I’m going to go with the USC passing game against the Sun Devils pass defense. Of course, part of this choice depends upon the SC offensive line going up against the ASU D-line, which includes the reigning Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year in Will Sutton. The Trojans will absolutely have to give Cody Kessler some time in this one and they will certainly have their hands full in that area.

But the real key will come with the Kessler connections to Marqise Lee and Nelson Agholor because those combinations simply haven’t gotten on track this year. It stands to reason they will need to in this game because the Trojans are going to have to put a decent point total on the board if they hope to come away with a win. The Sun Devils are currently ranked No. 2 in the conference in pass defense by allowing just 159 yards per game through the air. Both Lee and Agholor are capable of reaching that number on their own if the passing game is clicking.

Johnny Curren: It’s almost a foregone conclusion at this point that the USC defense will do its part on Saturday, but that isn’t likely to be enough for the team to leave Tempe with a victory unless the offense can put up some points. The key to determining that will be how the Trojans offensive line performs against the Arizona State defensive line. While doing a good job of paving the way for the ground game at times this season, the USC offensive line certainly had its problems when Utah State utilized an eight-man front last weekend.

And they’ve struggled in regard to pass-protection all season long -- they’ve already allowed nine sacks in 2013. For the Trojans to come away with a win this weekend, they need to start finding their rhythm on offense, and for that to happen, the offensive line needs to give Kessler time to throw downfield on a consistent basis, while also opening up some running lanes.

But it won’t be easy. The Sun Devils feature the 2012 Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year in Will Sutton, and he spearheads a defensive front that racked up 53 sacks last season. Still, they haven’t quite lived up to the lofty standards set by last year’s squad so far this fall. Sutton has started off slowly, and the Sun Devils have compiled a total of just three sacks in the team’s first three games, while giving up an average of 174 rushing yards per game -- the No. 11 mark in the conference.

Both units will be looking to step up their level of play on Saturday, and the game will likely be decided by which group ultimately does.

Greg Katz: The key matchup on Saturday night will feature the Arizona State defensive line against the Trojans offensive line. If ASU’s All-America nose tackle Will Sutton and his D-line buddies control the line of scrimmage and turn Trojans quarterback Cody Kessler into a human tackling dummy, it’s going to be one long night in the desert for the Men of Troy. However, if the Trojans offensive line plays its best game of the year, buys enough some time for Kessler to throw down field, and Lane Kiffin’s play calling forces the ASU defensive line to play honest against the run, the Trojans have a shot.