THE EDGE: USC has upper hand in the Coliseum
Former USC running back Marc Tyler’s opinion can be spot-on at times. When asked which college has the hottest women, he responded ASU. But during last week’s USC game against Oregon, he said senior quarterback Matt Barkley “is not that good, sorry SC fans.”
Barkley won’t win a BCS National Championship, which was the main reason he returned for his senior year, but he’s still a really good quarterback. That’s with or without deflated footballs.
Whether someone wants to put an asterisk next to Barkley’s performance against Oregon sounds like a personal problem.
His performance was still impressive, and he looks to be on his way toward career-highs in every major individual statistical category. Barkley threw for 484 yards and five touchdowns and put 51 points against the Ducks.
Redshirt sophomore Taylor Kelly had his worst performance this season against Oregon State. Kelly was not efficient, throwing 22-of-41 for 153 yards and just one touchdown. He needs a big game if ASU wants to upset the No. 19 Trojans.
The Sun Devils failed to get the ball to their best players on offense against Oregon State. Senior running back Cameron Marshall, junior running back Marion Grice and freshman running back D.J. Foster are three of the team’s four best weapons. While Marshall played well on the offense’s first drive, everyone else was relatively quiet.
The Trojans got a gift in junior running back Silas Redd during the offseason. He transferred from Penn State and did not sit out a year due to the NCAA’s ruling on the school’s Jerry Sandusky scandal. It was probably the weakest position on offense, but it received a considerable boost. Redd is carrying the load at running back with 135 carries for 732 yards and nine touchdowns. He certainly benefits from USC’s pro-style offense with Barkley and its wide receivers.
Wide Receivers/ Tight Ends
Those wide receivers are special at USC. Many thought Barkley and junior wide receiver Robert Woods would be in the running for the Heisman Trophy, but it’s sophomore Marqise Lee with the best shot on this team. He’s putting up ridiculous numbers — 88 catches, 1,286 yards and 12 touchdowns. He might even play defense Saturday, as ESPN Los Angeles’s Pedro Moura tweeted following USC’s practice Thursday.
Take away junior tight end Chris Coyle, and this group has been very disappointing. The only real receiving threat has been Coyle, Foster and Grice out of the back field or lined up in the slot. While redshirt junior wide receiver Kevin Ozier is putting together a solid year, the inconsistency from this group has hurt ASU’s offense all season.
ASU’s front line was flat-out dominated against Oregon State. The Sun Devils’ offensive line rarely controlled the trenches following its first drive. ASU was very one-dimensional last week. It needed to have a better showing Saturday and create holes for the running game, and there’s a good chance that could happen against USC.
The Trojans’ offensive line has been surprisingly inconsistent this season. It didn’t help when redshirt senior center Khaled Holmes went down with an ankle injury. The Trojans turned to redshirt freshman Cyrus Hobbi, and the offensive line was dominated in an upset loss to Stanford. Holmes is back and Barkley has only been sacked 11 times.
Junior defensive tackle Will Sutton said he should be 100 percent against USC. His impact was felt against Oregon State, even while his condition was less than 100 percent. The front line will need to get pressure on Barkley or USC could put up 50 points again.
The Trojans’ defensive line hasn’t played as well the last two games as it has all season. It didn’t get a sack against UA, and the Wildcats threw the ball 50 times.
Oregon had 426 rushing yards last week. Oregon State was able to take the run away from ASU and the offensive struggled. USC will have to take a similar approach and avoid another disastrous night on defense.
USC redshirt sophomore linebacker Dion Bailey leads his team with four interceptions this season. He’s also second on the team in tackles with 62, seven of those for loss.
ASU redshirt senior linebacker Brandon Magee leads the team with 70 tackles and he’s tied for a team-high two interceptions.
Both groups will need to play assignment-sound football against two potent offenses.
This is the ultimate push. USC and ASU haven’t had good secondary play the last two weeks.
USC gave up 369 and 304 passing yards to UA and Oregon, respectively, in consecutive weeks. ASU allowed 274 and 267 passing yards to UCLA and Oregon State, who started with junior backup quarterback Cody Vaz.
Which secondary will play better? Better question – which secondary will play worse?
Lee can do it all, and that includes kickoff returns. He has a 29.4 return yard average and busted a 100-yard return for a touchdown this season.
Sophomore kicker Andre Heidari is 7-for-10 this season. He’s a safer bet than ASU junior kicker Jon Mora, who still remains a mystery. Mora missed a key 37-yard field goal against Oregon State and his longest kick this season is from 38 yards. His consistency remains one of the biggest questions on this team.
ASU senior punter Josh Hubner has been one of the best punters in the country, however. He averages 47.4 yards per punt, with 16 inside the 20-yard line. Kelly has been solid on pooch kicks as well. Only one of his seven pooch kicks has resulted in a touchback.
USC is the most penalized team in the country. ASU fans know that feeling of undisciplined play that bodes costly at the end of games. The season isn’t over, but USC has already highly underachieved given the talent on the team. This was a team I thought would reach the National Championship, but the Trojans now sit with three losses.
If ASU wants to win this game, it must play a clean game and capitalize on USC’s mistakes. The Sun Devils has had breakdowns in coverage on defense, which resulted in huge gains. Somehow they can’t allow the big play, which sounds almost impossible with USC’s offense.
Both teams desperately need a win. USC at home should come out on top Saturday.
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