1. USC's high powered offensive capability against ASU's Russian Roulette approach to blitzing is going to be brightly spotlighted tonight. If the Sun Devils are able to impact USC quarterback Cody Kessler in the pocket and ASU's senior cornerbacks Lloyd Carrington and Kweishi Brown are able to use bump techniques to keep USC's potent receivers, especially Juju Smith-Schuster from getting open before Kessler can deliver the football, it will be a great indicator of success. If ASU doesn't impact Kessler and/or receivers are able to win at the line of scrimmage, it could lead to some very big play opportuities.
2. ASU needs a lot more balance offensively than it had last season at the Coliseum when now-senior quarterback Mike Bercovici had 510 passing yards and five touchdowns but ASU managed just 31 rushing yards. D.J. Foster and now departed Deantre Lewis had all the carries in that game and Demario Richard had none. This year, ASU needs to establish the run with Richard, attacking USC and its nose tackle Antwaun Woods in order to get USC out of its zone looks and give ASU some big play potential via the play action game that hasn't really been there for ASU to this point in the season.
3. After giving up nine sacks against Texas A&M, ASU's new offfensive tackle starters are under intense scrutiny and understandably so. The Trojans only have five sacks in three games, however, and no player has more than Su'a Cravens, who has two. USC has a conservative defensive approach, doesn't blitz much, and doesn't have dynamic speed rushers at defensive end. For the Sun Devils to give Bercovici the time he'll need in the pocket, senior William McGehee and junior Evan Goodman have to stabilize and hold up on the edge, especailly when Cravens is coming as a blitzer. The Trojans only really blitz about 20-30 percent of the time, and Bercovici will need a clean pocket and a lot of time to operate.
4. ASU's pressure defense has been great in the last three years in two very important categories. It has forced a lot of turnovers, due in large part to opposing quarterbacks putting the ball in jeopardy when forced to act, and it has genearted a ton of three-and-outs, also because of its ability to generate sacks and tackles for loss to get negative yards and put offenses behind schedule. This year has been different. ASU hasn't forced the three-and-outs, hasn't generated the turnovers, and has fumbled the ball more often than has been typically the case. ASU needs to get back to being in the plus column here in this game. Two years ago when ASU scored 62 points it got a pick-six off Kessler and another interception.
5. Last year USC gave up a punt return for a touchdown to USC and it did again in the opener against Texas A&M this year. The Sun Devils are trending in the right direciton on specaial teams, with Zane Gonzalez doing a great job on kickoffs and Matt Haack being more servicable than in the past on punts. But Haack has to be protected today and also more consistently get enough hangtime to prevent Adoree Jackson from breaking off a big return. ASU has to avoid giving up the big play here but if it can also get good starting position via a nice return or two of its own, and stay penalty free on defense, it'll give it a much better chance.