While much of the country will be sitting around a dinner table enjoying a Thanksgiving Turkey dinner, the USC Trojans and the ASU Sun Devils will be squaring off on the gridiron in Tempe Arizona. The game will be telecast on ESPN at 5:00 p.m. PST on Thanksgiving Day.
The Sun Devils boast the country's 5th best team in passing efficiency with a 152 rating.
The Trojans have the 5th best defense in points allowed, at 16 points per game. USC is third in the country, giving up only 267.2 yards (92.2 rushing).
Trojan Pass Rush
USC's defense has been the strength of the team all-season. For the Trojans to enjoy success, the pass rush needs to pressure ASU quarterback Rudy Carpenter. The Trojan front four with an occasional assist from a secondary blitz needs to keep Carpenter contained and force him to throw from the pocket under pressure.
Carpenter may scramble out of trouble, so the USC defense needs to keep him in the backfield and force rash decisions or create sack opportunities. There has been question about Carpenter's health since he was injured in a game against the California Bears in October.
This is a homecoming game of sorts for USC freshman defensive end Everson Griffen. Griffen is from Avondale, Arizona and this will be his first college game in his home state. He had a breakout game against Oregon State with 3-1/2 sacks and six tackles. Griffen should be able to pressure Carpenter and the ASU offense.
Running Back Attack
Chauncey Washington has been impressive the last two weeks
Washington has been running with authority of late, and if he continues his determined running, the Trojans can dominate this game. Stafon Johnson has been getting close to retaining his breakaway abilities the last two weeks. Johnson was a leading rusher for the Trojans until suffering a foot injury over a month ago.
Should Washington and Johnson establish a power run game, the Trojans can then add speedster Joe McKnight to the mix. If two of these three running backs can have dominant games, USC may just manhandle the Sun Devils.
Trojan Offensive Line
The Trojan offensive line has been riddled with injury all season. Lately, most of the line has come back from their respective injuries. Sam Baker is still recovering from a hamstring injury, but Matt Spanos, Chilo Rachal, Kris O'Dowd and Tiny Malu should all be at full strength.
If the line can open holes for the USC running backs and protect quarterback John David Booty, the Trojans should be able to dominate on the offensive side of the ball. Since the line should be two-deep, there is a good chance the line may overpower the Sun Devil defensive line.
Could this be the game where the receivers get on track? Tight end Fred Davis has been reliable all year long. Wide receiver Patrick Turner dropped some passes in the early part of the season, but has 464 yards on the year. Vidal Hazelton, with 452 yards has also been reliable of late. Perhaps Ronald Johnson, who has been successful with kick returns will finally connect with quarterback John David Booty and have a breakout game.
Freshman receiver Ronald Johnson looking for a breakout game
What has not happened for the Trojans this season is a dominating performance by the wide receivers. Will the receivers finally have a breakout game?
Given the offensive line's relative health, John David Booty's recovery from a broken finger and the receivers' need to prove themselves, this could be an opportunity for the Trojan receivers to shine.