Week 6 Pac-12: Arizona State at USC Preview

Arizona State (3-1) at USC (3-1) Oct. 4, 7:30, Fox 

Here’s The Deal: Arizona State and USC meet in a key Pac-12 South showdown Saturday evening. The last time the schools met in 2013, the Sun Devils hung 62 points on the Trojans and Lane Kiffin was fired a few hours later. Troy will be seeking revenge this week, while essentially blocking ASU’s path to a repeat divisional title. The Sun Devils have already been manhandled at home by UCLA, so another league loss would be damning. USC, meanwhile, regrouped from its nasty loss to Boston College two weeks ago by easily taking care of Oregon State, 35-10. The Trojans are now 2-0 in conference play, having already defeated Stanford.

Why Arizona State Might Win: Backup QB Mike Bercovici, a Southern California native, is not the problem. In fact, he played pretty well in his first start in place of injured Taylor Kelly, throwing for 488 yards, three touchdowns and two picks. The Sun Devils proved last week that they’re still going to score plenty of points on people, especially with RB D.J. Foster and WR Jaelen Strong stretching the boundaries of a defense. ASU’s seven yards per play so far this season ranks No. 12 nationally.

Why USC Might Win: The Trojans boast the better D, and it’s not even close. Last week was the perfect litmus test, with USC shutting down Sean Mannion and Oregon State, while Arizona State got bombarded by UCLA for three offensive plays of at least 80 yards. The Sun Devils are in disarray, which Troy will exploit with a heavy dose of backs Javorius Allen and Justin Davis, and the deft passing of Cody Kessler. Kessler is completing 72% of his throws, and should have a field day along with big-play WR Nelson Agholor.

Who To Watch Out For: Bercovici’s encore performance has him facing one of the country’s up-and-coming defensive backfields. Even without suspended CB Josh Shaw, USC is thriving. The Trojans rank No. 2 in the country in pass efficiency defense, and have yet to allow a touchdown pass. Freshmen Chris Hawkins and Adoree’ Jackson are playing like veterans, and Su’a Cravens is a budding All-American, whether he lines up at strong safety or outside linebacker.

What’s Going To Happen: After getting pummeled by UCLA, Arizona State is in no position to deal with USC this week. The Trojans have regrouped on defense, and their ability to pound away on the ground will keep the ball away from the ASU offense. Troy will be in control from wire-to-wire, maintaining a double-digit spread throughout the second half.

Prediction: USC 38 … Arizona State 23 
Line: USC -11.5 o/u: 66 
Must Watch Factor: 5: Gone Girl – 1: Mulaney … 3