- Johnny Curren, WeAreSC, Reporter
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LOS ANGELES -- USC (3-1 overall, 0-1 in the Pac-12) will head to the desert to take on Arizona State (2-1, 0-1) Saturday in a battle between Pac-12 South Division foes. The Sun Devils, coming off a 42-28 loss to Stanford, showcase a high-octane offense and a defense headlined by 2012 Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year Will Sutton. The Trojans defeated Utah State 17-14 in a contest that featured another phenomenal outing by the defensive front seven, but also a passing game that was stagnant for the third time in four games this season.
Scoring: 38.3 points per game (No. 8 Pac-12, No. 35 overall)
Rushing: 108 yards per game (No. 9 Pac-12, No. 107 overall)
Passing: 361.3 yards per game (No. 4 Pac-12, No. 8 overall)
Total: 469.3 yards per game (No. 7 Pac-12, No. 43 overall)
Quarterback: No. 10 Taylor Kelly (6-foot-2, 201, RS Jr.)
Directing ASU’s up-tempo, spread attack, Kelly is a precision passer who can also make things happen on the ground when he has to. He has completed 82 of 137 passes for 1,019 yards and eight touchdowns with three interceptions in 2013, and he ranks No. 9 nationally in total offense (354.7 yards per game).
Grice gives the Sun Devils’ offense a dangerous rushing option, and both he and Foster are also utilized frequently as pass-catchers. Still, there is definitely room for improvement when it comes to the output of this group. As a team, Arizona State averages just 2.9 yards per rush.
Strong, a transfer out of Los Angeles (Calif.) Pierce College, has quickly emerged as Kelly’s go-to receiver, leading ASU with 24 catches for 330 yards and two touchdowns. He made 12 grabs for 168 yards and one touchdown against Stanford.
Coyle is coming off an impressive 2012 campaign in which he hauled in 57 passes for 696 yards and five touchdowns. He has six receptions for 126 yards and two touchdowns so far this season.
Offensive Line: LT No. 62 Evan Finkenberg (6-4, 298, RS Sr.), LG No. 74 Jamil Douglas (6-4, 301, RS Jr.). C No. 67 Kody Koebensky (6-3, 298, RS Sr.), RG No. 73 Vi Teofilo (6-3, 302, RS So.), RT No. 54 Tyler Sulka (6-5, 289, RS Jr.)
The Arizona State offensive line had a rough day against Stanford, allowing a constant flow of pass-rushers into the backfield, while also failing to open up lanes for a run game that had only 50 yards on 24 carries. USC racked up seven sacks against the Sun Devils in 2012, and the Trojans’ front seven is even better this time around, so this will be a key matchup to watch.
Scoring: 24 points per game (No. 8 Pac-12, No. 59 overall)
Rushing: 174 yards per game (No. 11 Pac-12, No. 77 overall)
Passing: 159 yards per game (No. 2 Pac-12, No. 17 overall)
Total: 333 yards per game (No. 7 Pac-12, No. 35 overall)
Sutton leads an aggressive ASU defense that features multiple fronts, but the Corona (Calif.) Centennial product has yet to perform at quite the same level that he did a year ago, and as a whole, the Sun Devils have struggled against the run. Hood went down with a hamstring injury against Stanford and is doubtful, so Conway will likely see time inside along with Mo Latu (6-3, 380, RS So.), while Davon Coleman (6-1, 283, Sr.) could take on a bigger role at end.
Bradford, who plays at the hybrid linebacker/end DEVIL backer spot, can be a disruptive force -- he had seven tackles, one sack and two quarterback hurries this past Saturday. Young leads the team with 19 tackles.
The secondary has been one of the strengths of the Arizona State defense, evidenced by the Sun Devils’ No. 17 national ranking against the pass. Irabor, who has started 36 consecutive games, has been the star of the group.
A 2012 second-team All-Pac-12 honoree, Darby is a rangy playmaker who is also a team leader. Nelson possesses exceptional cover skills for a safety.
Neither Vizzare nor Haack have looked particularly sharp. Haack assumed punting duties for the first time last weekend and averaged 38.8 yards on four punts, while booting one attempt into the back of a blocker.
Garoutte has been solid, drilling 14 of 22 kickoffs for touchbacks. Gonzalez hasn’t been as reliable as the team’s placekicker, however, going 4-for-7 on field goals, including just 1-of-3 from 40 yards or longer.
Kick returner: No. 1 Marion Grice (6-0, 207, Sr.), No. 3 Richard Smith (5-9, 172, So.)
As a team Arizona State averages 21.7 yards per kick return.
Punt returner: No. 9 Robert Nelson (5-11, 169, RS Sr.)
Nelson averages six yards per punt return.