One loss won't derail USC's season. A second consecutive loss this week might, especially against an Arizona team spinning its wheels.
USC head coach Lane Kiffin must manage the team's psyche this week to make sure they practice well and perform on Saturday. The Trojans said all the right things publicly after the debacle in the desert, but it's another thing to actually do it.
Perhaps the best indication Kiffin is ready to do so is his pronouncement that lineup changes could be coming, which should result in a week of intense practices.
-Is Foles fool's gold?
Arizona quarterback Nick Foles seems to be proving the old adage about lies, damn lines and statistics this year. The senior is directing the fifth-best passing offense in college football, has thrown 10 touchdowns and no interceptions with a 1-3 record to show for it.
It's not Foles' fault he is working behind a brand new offensive line and the defense is dead last in the Pac-12 in both total and scoring defense. But for the Wildcats to save their season and end an eight-game losing streak against FBS opponents, Foles will have to make those prolific numbers mean something.
Given the struggles USC had defending the short passing game of Arizona State, he will have that chance in the Coliseum, as he did two years ago with his game-winning touchdown throw to Juron Criner.
-Red Dead Redemption
The Trojans were atrocious on third down – 1 of 9 against the Sun Devils – that was only matched by their ineptitude in the red zone, with six trips resulting in 19 points.
Doesn't matter if Troy Polamalu, Lofa Tatupu or Clay Matthews are anchoring your defense, you're not going to win many games playing that way on offense.
Kiffin runs the offense, it is his baby, so he has to figure out ways to resolve those issues. Play calling is part of the issue, especially near the goal line, where USC kept running plays to the short side of the field and further limiting the available space to work with.
-Secondary, Please Step Up
Arizona State seemingly runs the screen pass more than any other team in the conference. Arizona is probably the runner up, which doesn't bode well considering how the Trojans defended the Sun Devils.
Tackling in the open field to the only way to derail those plays, which was the defense's bugaboo last year and showed up again in Tempe. USC couldn't handle their big receivers on the perimeter, unable to shed blocks or tackle.
Criner is a superior receiver to anyone Arizona State has and has that same size advantage.
With Torin Harris dealing with a shoulder injury, 5-foot-9 redshirt freshman Anthony Brown has a strong chance to start. He and equally undersized Nickell Robey must play big or else it will be another long, frustrating day for USC.