Redshirt junior Taylor Kelly has thrown the ball a lot this season. Kelly has racked up 1,019 passing yards through three games, including 367 against Stanford on 55 attempts last Saturday. His completion percentage has dropped to 59.9 percent, though, and he was picked off twice against the Cardinal.
The Trojans and redshirt sophomore Cody Kessler haven’t thrown the ball much this season, compiling only 654 yards through the air in their first four games. Kessler has shown improvement since securing the starting job and threw for 164 yards and a touchdown last weekend against Utah State.
Senior Marion Grice has been efficient when he’s touched the ball and has scored six touchdowns, but he is only averaging 3.6 yards per carry. Now that Wisconsin and Stanford are behind the Sun Devils, his numbers should increase. Redshirt junior Deantre Lewis is averaging 6.4 yards per carry, but he had only one rushing attempt against the Cardinal.
Silas Redd hasn’t played yet this season because of an injury, but redshirt sophomore Tre Madden and freshman Justin Davis have carried the load. The two have combined for 644 yards and four touchdowns this season while averaging over five yards per carry. Madden ran for 98 yards and a touchdown against the Aggies last weekend.
Wide Receivers/Tight End
Redshirt sophomore Jaelen Strong was incredible for the Sun Devils against Stanford, collecting 12 catches for 168 yards and a score. He’s becoming one of the best receivers in the conference, but there hasn’t been much behind him. Running backs sophomore D.J. Foster and Grice are still the second and third leading receivers on the team. Senior tight end Chris Coyle caught a 45-yard touchdown against the Cardinal, though.
Junior Marqise Lee, sophomore Nelson Agholor and redshirt junior Xavier Grimble are all very capable receivers, but none of USC’s quarterbacks can get them the ball. Lee still has 23 catches for 293 yards and a touchdown but has seen his pre-season Heisman hopes vanish. The Trojans have only four receiving touchdowns all season.
The Sun Devils’ offensive line was pushed around against Stanford. Redshirt sophomore Vi Teofilo and redshirt junior Tyler Sulka had subpar games and the offensive line’s woes led directly to Kelly’s opening interception. The line hasn’t looked very solid all season and will need to improve if ASU is going to move the ball against a good Trojans’ defense.
The Trojans’ offensive line has allowed nine sacks through four games, including three to Utah State but has done a good job blocking for the running game. The offensive line hasn’t seen a defense quite like the Sun Devils, though.
It took almost three games for the defensive line to record a sack this season. Redshirt junior Carl Bradford was the guy to get it and played a wonderful game against the Cardinal, recording seven tackles and the sack. It will be a major blow if sophomore Jaxon Hood (doubtful) can’t go against the Trojans, but redshirt sophomore Mo Latu was very effective in his absence. At 370 pounds, Latu can’t go every play, though.
Defensive tackles redshirt junior George Uko and sophomore Leonard Williams have been dominant, combining for 10.5 tackles for loss and six sacks on the season. Defensive ends senior Morgan Breslin and redshirt senior Devon Kennard have chipped in 10.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks. This is an all-around good line.
Coach Todd Graham said at Monday’s press conference that senior Chris Young has been one of the bright spots for the Sun Devils this season. He leads the team in tackles and Graham said to expect redshirt freshman Salamo Fiso (2.5 TFL) to start against the Trojans.
Junior Lamar Dawson is the second-leading tackler on the Trojans and has collected 2.5 TFLs this season. Redshirt junior Hayes Pullard hasn’t put up the numbers, but he’s one of the best linebackers in the Pac-12. Freshman Quinton Powell has chipped in two TFLs and a sack in limited playing time this season.
Senior Osahon Irabor continues to be a force in the Sun Devil secondary. He leads the team with four TFL’s and one sack and has also racked up 17 tackles, which ranks second behind Young. Safety play has been a concern, though. Senior Alden Darby and redshirt freshman Laiu Moeakiola were both beat often against Stanford.
The Trojans secondary, led by redshirt junior safety Dion Bailey, has been stout against the pass this season, allowing only 171.2 passing yards per game this season. Bailey and company surrendered only 179 passing yards to Utah State quarterback and Heisman dark horse Chuckie Keeton last Saturday. Bailey leads the team in tackles (24) and interceptions (2).
The Sun Devils’ special teams unit has been their weakest spot all season. The punting game has a net average of 26.7 yards, worst of any school in the FBS, and had two punts blocked against the Cardinal. Freshman Zane Gonzalez missed badly from 45 yards out against Stanford and is now just 4-7 on the season.
Junior Andre Heidari is only 4-7 on field goals as well, but at least the Trojans can punt the ball effectively. Pac-12 Special Teams Player of the Week and redshirt sophomore Kris Albarado is averaging 40.7 yards on his 23 punts this season and the return game is always dangerous with Lee back there.
Overall EDGE: ASU
The Trojans look very intimidating on paper, especially defensively. Overall, though, they just haven’t looked like a national power and the Sun Devils will be the best team they’ve faced this season. This is obviously a big game for both teams as both sit at 0-1 in conference play, but expect the Sun Devils to come out swinging at home after their poor first half performance at Stanford. The Trojans lead the all-time series 18-11, but are only 8-6 in Tempe. If the Sun Devils can play a complete game, expect a double-digit victory and the Sun Devils’ first conference victory of the season.
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