No. 5 USC at Arizona State: Can the Sun Devils avoid a massive beatdown?
What’s at stake, the key matchup to watch, and what would need to happen for ASU to win Saturday night
Mario Williams stiff-arms ASU DB Jordan Clark during the first half of last year’s game at the Coliseum. The Trojans and the injury-plagued Sun Devils wind down their rivalry Saturday night in Tempe. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
No. 5 USC (3-0, 1-0 Pac-12) at ARIZONA STATE (1-2 overall, 0-0)
7:30 p.m. PT Saturday; Mountain America Stadium, Tempe, Ariz., FOX (11)/790 AM; Line: USC by 35 points
Luca Evans (OC Register) — Notable injuries:
Arizona State: PROBABLE: QB Drew Pyne (undisclosed); QUESTIONABLE: OL Cade Briggs (undisclosed); DOUBTFUL: QB Trenton Bourguet (leg); DE Clayton Smith (undisclosed); OUT: QB Jaden Rashada (undisclosed);
USC: OUT: DL Solomon Tuliaupupu (lower leg, season-ending surgery); OL Gino Quinones (lower leg, out for season)
What’s at stake? This matchup is so blatantly lopsided on paper, so truly skewed in light of ASU’s injury-ravaged depth chart and lesser talent, that new Sun Devils head coach and ASU grad Kenny Dillingham maniacally barked out an all-time vein-popper of a rant on Wednesday:
“If you don’t expect to win every game, you have a problem. I don’t care if I’m playing Michael Jordan in basketball. I’m not playing to lose!” a hoarse-voiced Dillingham strained to proclaim, in a media scrum video from 12News’ Cameron Cox. “Otherwise, why would I play? I’m not just going to play ’cause it’s fun. What’s fun is competing to win. You’re playing to win. That’s it. You should expect to win.”
It was epic. Yet for all of the former Oregon offensive coordinator’s passion, it’s ridiculous to assume that third-string Pyne (if healthy) or fourth-string Jacob Conover can outduel the best quarterback in college football who is shooting for his second consecutive Heisman.
What’s truly at stake here, for USC, is a final stamp on depth-chart battles, in another game that could see Caleb Williams watching the second half from the sidelines.
Keep an eye on the success of the Trojans’ inside linebacker and pass rush combinations; this Saturday will serve as a proving ground for who will earn snaps when USC travels to Boulder to face sudden Heisman candidate Shedeur Sanders and Colorado next weekend.
Dillingham told reporters Monday that he would physically show his team the point spread on Saturday. It’s that tilted toward USC here. If ASU were healthy, this would be a little closer – but the Sun Devils are down multiple quarterbacks, offensive linemen, and skill players galore as an injury bug has swept through Tempe.
Matchup to watch: The battle in the trenches. ASU’s offensive line is hurting; no less than five offensive linemen were out at one point before last week’s shutout loss to Fresno State, according to 12News. Briggs is questionable, and the status of starting tackle Isaia Glass seems up in the air.
USC’s Solomon Byrd, Bear Alexander (90) and Jamil Muhammad have all been major difference-makers on the much-improved Trojan defensive line – they seem primed for a monster game hunting down Pyne or Conover.
USC wins if: Former BYU QB and longtime backup Conover doesn’t magically turn into the second coming of Brock Purdy.
Prediction: USC 56, Arizona State 10
Expect USC’s ground game to run buck-wild, and anything less than two to three takeaways would also be a surprise.
TrojanDailyBlog members — We always encourage you to add factual information, insight, divergent opinions, or new topics to the TDB that don’t necessarily pertain to any particular moderator post or member comment.