Deflated USC in must-win situation at home vs. ASU

After being No. 1 in the AP polls at the start, this is not where the USC Trojans expected they would be at this point in the season.

Despite the recent struggles and two-game losing streak, the No. 19 Trojans look ahead to ASU at home.

“As I’ve said before, teams are very resilient,” USC coach Lane Kiffin said. “So they’re excited to get back to work … We’re very fortunate to still have a lot on the line with these games coming up with the balance in the (Pac-12) South, so I think that helps as well.”

The Trojans now sit in the second spot in the Pac-12 South with three games remaining in their regular season schedule.

Even with three losses, the Trojans have a realistic shot at the division title. Their only Pac-12 South loss came when UA upset the Trojans in Tucson. With only two Pac-12 South matchups remaining, the game against ASU has huge implications.

Junior receiver Robert Woods said there is one part of their game USC wants to eliminate before they take on ASU.

“Turnovers,” Woods said. “Turnovers definitely killed drives and hurt the offense, and I think that’s the reason for our two losses.”

Controlling the ball will be a priority for the Trojans this week against the ASU defense. Since coach Todd Graham arrived at ASU, his defensive mentality has been to apply pressure and force turnovers. So far this season, the Sun Devils have forced 18 turnovers.

“There’s a lot of speed and a lot of guys flying around trying to make plays on their defense,” Woods said.

The Trojan defense is looking for a week to rebound in. In the last two games, opposing teams have put 101 points against them. Now they face the challenge of the ASU offense that is tied for No. 2 in the conference in scoring.

Kiffin was pretty blunt when he said the defense did not play well against No. 3 Oregon.

This week, the Trojans are hoping to have a different result. For the USC defense, the key will be stopping ASU redshirt sophomore quarterback Taylor Kelly.

Redshirt sophomore linebacker Dion Bailey said the Trojans look to stop Kelly and the ASU offense on the ground.

“Just bottle him up (and) make him one-dimensional,” Bailey said. “If they’re able to get the running game going and the pass game going, then they’re definitely dangerous, so we got to eliminate one aspect of the game.”

Bailey said ASU’s offense has some similar tendencies as Oregon’s attack. They both run an up-tempo game and like to spread out the defense. He is hoping the defense will perform better this weekend against a similar offense.

The possibility of the Trojans playing in the Pac-12 Championship game is still within reach. Before they can think about that, they have to focus on ASU this weekend.

For Bailey, the objective is simple.

“We have to win,” Bailey said. “No matter how we do it — pretty (or) ugly — we got (to) come out the end of this weekend with a win.”

 

Reach the reporter at ehubbard@asu.edu