College Football Pac-12 Game of the Week: USC (3-0) vs. Arizona State (2-1)

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College Football Pac-12 Game of the Week: USC (3-0) vs. Arizona State (2-1)
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Recent history suggests that this game is not a prime time PAC-12 game, as USC has won 11 straight times against ASU dating back to 1999.

Looking a little deeper, this game suggests otherwise.

If last year’s showdown is any indication of how this year’s game will be played out, a 34-33 USC win in the Coliseum, this games has the makings for one of the best PAC-12 matchups of the season.

The game reads as a tale of two vastly different teams.

USC has history and the national respect of football pundits on their side. ASU is full of promise and hope but is struggling to find respectability under Dennis Erickson. Both teams entered the season with high hopes and expectations of challenging each other for the PAC-12 South Title.

Lane Kiffin’s Trojans have not played up to expectations thus far this season, even though they are 3-0. Each week college football waits to see if USC will finally turn in a dominating performance. Last week’s performance against Syracuse (38-17) may be as good as it gets for Trojan fans in the near future.

The Trojans racked up 501 total yards of offense from the line of scrimmage led by Matt Barkley’s 324-yards passing and five touchdown passes; a school record to five different receivers. Their defense shut-down the Orangemen’s rushing attack, only allowing 73-net yards. USC’s pass defense made Syracuse one dimensional and still only gave up 258 passing yards.

Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

This week will represent a different challenge for the Trojans as they go on the road for the first time in 2011, entering a hostile environment.

The Sun Devils are a senior laden team charged with the task of getting ASU to a bowl game for the first time since 2007 and getting their head coach Dennis Erickson out of the hot seat.

ASU’s play has been marred by penalties and costly mistakes. Those mistakes caught up with them last week when they lost on the road to the Fighting Illini 17-14. ASU was intercepted twice, gave up six sacks, and lost a fumble.

They were called for eight penalties totaling 91-lost yards. Their turnover margin for the year ranks them the 90th worst team in FBS with a negative 0.67 average per game.

Out of 120 FBS teams, ASU is the 114th worst team in yards given up to penalties per game at 80.33; USC is not much better ranking 101st in the nation giving up 66.33 yards per game in penalties.

Not all hope is lost for ASU.

They are a quality team if they can overcome their sloppy play. The Sun Devils are ranked 47th in college football in total defense giving up 328-yards per game; USC is ranked 41st giving up 317-yards per game.

 

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Brock Osweiler has taken over the starting quarterback duties for Steven Threet, who retired last season from college football due to injuries, and he has played well.

Osweiler is averaging 290 passing yards per game and has thrown six touchdowns with three interceptions against quality opposition. Matt Barkley is averaging 297-yards passing per game with nine touchdowns and only one interception.

The quarterback play will garner the headlines, but ASU’s motivation and desire to win could be the difference in the game. Should ASU lose for a second straight week any national title hopes they have could be lost.

 

Key Matchups

USC’s inexperienced offensive line against ASU’s talented defense.

Can USC pick up the blitz packages and keep Barkley upright?

Osweiler’s arm versus the USC secondary.

USC faced Jordan Wynn and Norm Chows offense in week two, holding Wynn to 238-yards passing with one touchdown. Osweiler has a better arm when given time.

 

Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Outcome

The Trojans raw talent will win out in Sun Devil Stadium.

 

Final Score

 

USC wins 24-18.

 

Notes to the game:

 

ASU’s injury report reads like a possible All PAC-12 lineup.

ASU has been without starting CB Omar Bolden (ACL), CB Devan Spann (shoulder) and LB Brandon Magee (Achilles) all season.

Add another key contributor to their defense that will miss another game, DE Junior Onyeali (knee). Onyeali was PAC-10 Freshman of the Year in 2010.

 

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Starting safety Eddie Elder is a game-time decision due to a concussion suffered last week against Illinois.

ASU running back Cameron Marshall may not get many snaps against USC.

In preparation for Marshall’s absence during the game, Erickson expects wide receiver Jamal Miles to get more touches, especially out of the running back position.

ASU will be without T Aderious Simmons and OG Adam Tello.

USC will start true freshman Marcus Martin (Los Angeles) at guard for the second straight game.

Junior offensive guard Abe Markowitz practiced this week and may see some game time. He has not played in the first three games due to a foot injury. 

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