Arizona State (3-2, 0-2 Pac10) is coming off a bye week. Prior to that they suffered another lopsided loss, this time at home at the hands of Oregon 48-13. ASU QB sophomore Rudy Carpenter had an abysmal game with just 33 yards passing. Once again, Sun Devil junior running back Ryan Torain was the lone bright spot on offense, as he rushed for 114 yards on 19 carries.
While the ASU defense was certainly not aided by the offense, it too didn't have a stellar day against Oregon's spread offense. The Ducks racked up 574 yards of total offense, including 315 on the ground. The visitors from Eugene also converted 62% of their third downs.
|LAST WEEK: The Trojans are coming off another close call as they defeated the Washington Huskies 26-20 but the game came down the final play, a strange ending which featured the clock running out before Washington could get off a last play. It was the third straight week in a row that the Trojans have put together a less than stellar performance against a Pac-10 foe yet the only real important number to consider is the fact that USC is 3-0 in those games. Among those who performed well against the Huskies were WR Patrick Turner (12 catches for 116 yards and a touchdown), LB Keith Rivers (12 tackles, two pass break-ups) and K Mario Danelo (four FG's, twoXP's).|
|KEY INJURIES: Andrew Carnahan, OL, out for the season with a torn ACL.||KEY INJURIES: WR Steve Smith (ankle, probable), WR Dwayne Jarrett (shoulder, likely), WR Chris McFoy (shoulder, out), FB Brandon Hancock (knee, out), FB Ryan Powdrell (ankle, out), FB Stanley Havili (leg, out), OL Chilo Rachal (ankle, likely), OL Jeff Byers (back, out), DB Josh Pinkard (knee, out)|
|WHEN ARIZONA STATE IS ON OFFENSE:
Will the aerial Sun Devil attack yield to its emerging ground game? With the recent struggles of Carpenter and the wideouts, it should come as no shock that ASU will attempt to establish its running attack early and often against USC. Furthermore, the maroon and gold will stress ball control and time of possession – vital ingredients for a road win, let alone a victory against a team of USC's caliber.
Junior All-American tight end Zach Miller has been doing a valiant job as a part-time fullback, and has been instrumental in the success of ASU's running game. Nonetheless, he has become less of a factor in the passing game. The Sun Devils would like nothing more than to re-establish one of their biggest receiving threats. In general, inconsistency has plagued the wide receiver unit. Sophomore wide receiver Nate Kimbrough has been the standout wide receiver the last couple of weeks, but veterans such as Terry Richardson and Rudy Burgess will have to step up and aid the passing game to get back on track.
Torain has probably been the most consistent skilled position player on the team, and together with sophomore Keegan Herring, the team's starting running back, they will try to move the chains and keep the ball as long as possible out of the grasps of the Trojan offense.
|WHEN USC IS ON OFFENSE: Look for the Trojans to attack in this game in an effort to generate some big plays. To date, USC has not scored a touchdown from outside the red zone and many are blaming the lack of the big play as a reason for the sluggish performances in recent weeks. With Dwayne Jarrett likely to play, and the good possibility of Steve Smith playing as well, look for the long ball to be in the air to those two and to Patrick Turner who is coming off a career performance. Vidal Hazelton is another receiver who could see increased action. Also look for more of the running back duo of Chauncey Washington and Emmanuel Moody but don't be surprised if Allen Bradford gets a few reps at fullback.|
|WHEN USC HAS THE BALL:
With a balanced offense as USC's, the ASU defenders will have their hands full. The Sun Devils have had a hard time pressuring opposing quarterbacks in the last few games. Defensive ends senior Kyle Caldwell and redshirt freshman Dexter Davis will to buck that trend and disrupt John Booty, who is less mobile signal caller than the ones they faced the past couple of weeks. Senior linebacker Derron Ware started off the season strong rushing the passer on certain downs, but now that opponents are scheming more for him his contribution has tapered down.
Injuries or no injuries, the USC receivers will still be a handful to contend with. Cornerbacks senior Keno Walter-White and junior Justin Tryon haven't faired all that well in Pac-10 play, and a repeat performance on Saturday will make it a long day in the office for ASU. The safety group is very deep with Senior Zach Catanese, junior Josh Barrett and true freshman Ryan McFoy, who is probably disappointed that he won't get to match up with brother Chris, a USC WR, who will be sitting out this game with an injury.
|WHEN ARIZONA STATE HAS THE BALL: It's clear the amount of respect that Pete Carroll has for the power running game that has been established by Ryan Torian in recent weeks. Carroll likes the hard runners and Torian has definitely caught the eye of the Trojan coach. With that being said, look for the Trojans to focus on stopping, or at least slowing, that power running attack with a strong showing up the middle (glad to have you back, Sed Ellis). This will be a critical game for Rey Maualuga to play well and don't be surprised if Oscar Lua ends up playing a role as well. Carroll loves to try and make opposing offenses one-dimensional and he would love to stop Torian and takes his chances on a Sun Devil passing attack that surprisingly has struggled lately.|
|SPECIAL TEAMS: ASU's punting woes of 2005 are so far a thing of the past, thanks to solid play of JC transfer Jonathan Johnson who averages 41.7 yards a punt. Kicker Jesse Ainsworth is 3-5 on filed goals this season, with both misses being from 40 or more yards. As always, the senior boots the majority of his kickoffs for touchbacks, but when he doesn't the Sun Devils have been somewhat shaky in their kickoff coverage. Senior Terry Richardson is arguably the Pac-10's best kick and punt returner, averaging 35.2 and 12.3 yards respectively in those categories. In ASU's last game against Oregon he ran back a 100-yard kickoff for a touchdown.||SPECIAL TEAMS: The Trojans special teams, primarily the kicking game, are performing well right now. Danelo is coming off a performance that netted him the Pac-10 Player of the Week honor and Troy Van Blarcom has been doing a terrific job getting his kickoffs into or out of the end zone. The punter, Greg Woidneck, has been solid as well and he should have a little extra incentive this week while going up against his former teammates. As far as the return game, we've seen a long return in each of the last two weeks from C.J. Gable and that's been a real pleasant surprise. Desmond Reed missed two days of practice this week and we saw Travon Patterson and Vidal Hazelton get a lot of work returning punts.|
|ARIZONA STATE CAN WIN IF: The Sun Devils can come away victorious if their offense can exhibit true balance and ball control to frustrate the home team and a keep a potent USC attack off the filed as much as possible. Needless to say that Carpenter has to drastically cut down on the number of turnovers he has had the last few weeks, and re-discover his timing and rhythm with his passing game targets. The defense will have to make a statement early on and not fall into an early hole that can effectively end the game in the first half, as it did against Cal and Oregon. ASU's special teams will have to do a formidable job in giving the defense a long filed to defend and the offense a short field to drive. If called upon, Ainsworth will have to nail a long range field goal, something he hasn't done in a while.||USC CAN WIN IF: Pete Carroll has made an issue of the fact that the Trojan defense has been unable to create turnovers in recent weeks. If the defense can create a couple turnovers, look for the USC offense to take advantage of those miscues by turning them into points and running away with a comfortable victory. The Trojan offense should be able to put up enough points for a victory, the margin of victory will be determined by how much the Trojan defense can contribute to the cause.|
|ARIZONA STATE OUTLOOK: "Answer the Scratch" is ASU's team motto, which translates to succeeding in light of adversity. That saying will certainly be put to the test in Los Angeles this weekend. The team has to prove first and foremost to itself, that it can come back following what some perceive two demoralizing defeats. This week's game provides an opportunity to beat a ranked opponent and win in the state of California – two things they have seldom done this decade. A third consecutive conference loss could be the beginning of a nasty tailspin for the rest of the 2006 campaign. Overall, to say that there is much to be gained from a win over USC would be a gross understatement. The Sun Devils nearly pulled out a victory at home against the Trojans last season, and some will argue that USC is less talented than it was in 2005, while the opposite may be true for ASU.||USC OUTLOOK: The Trojans, despite their 5-0 record and lofty national ranking, are a team feeling it has something to prove right now. Every player and coach knows that this team is capable of playing better and what better time to kick things into gear than in front of 92,000 fans at the Coliseum. A big victory against the Sun Devils would also be an excellent way to go into the bye week with good feelings and an opportunity for some much needed rest and rehab time. Look for the Trojans to come out extremely fired up for this game, especially if their practice habits this week are any indication of what is to come in the game.|
|ARIZONA STATE 2-DEEPS:
|Hod Rabino is the publisher for DevilsDigest.com||Garry Paskwietz is the Publisher of WeAreSC.com and WeAreSC magazine, he has been covering Trojan football since 1996.|
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