The EDGE: ASU football opens Pac-12 play against USC

After needing the 'Jael Mary' to beat the Trojans in 2014, does ASU hold the edge this season?

Quarterbacks

Edge: USC

ASU redshirt senior Mike Bercovici (27-for-45, 510 yards and five touchdowns against USC in 2014) out-dueled USC's Cody Kessler (28-for-45, 273 yards vs. ASU in 2014), and proved to be a key difference maker down the stretch in rallying the Sun Devils to a come-from-behind victory.

That said, Kessler has just been the better quarterback thus far this season. He's thrown for 922 yards and 10 touchdowns with no interceptions this season while completing 78.7 percent of his passes. Bercovici, on the other hand, had his first 300-yard passing game  this past weekend against New Mexico since that fateful October night, but has failed to get ASU's offense truly rolling.

Running backs

Edge: Push

ASU sophomore Demario Richard has without a doubt been the team's MVP this far this season, including a performance last week in which he had 255 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns. "Baby Beast Mode" should have some help this week with the returns of redshirt junior Gump Hayes and sophomore Kalen Ballage to the field.

USC, on the other hand, has three running backs averaging more than seven yards per game this season in senior Tre Madden (7.4), freshman Ronald Jones II (9.4) and junior Justin Davis (9.2) 

Wide receivers

Edge: USC

ASU's wide receivers have struggled to gain much of a rhythm with Bercovici this season, and while this in large part has been due to injuries, it is still something that should have been fixed by this point entering conference play.

USC's receiving corps is led by star sophomore JuJu Smith-Schuster, who already has caught 22 passes for 434 yards and four touchdowns so far this season. While the rest of the Trojan receivers have yet to break out, they boast the biggest game-changer in Saturday's matchup in Smith-Schuster.

Offensive line

Edge: USC

ASU's offensive line is still filled with question marks, and they now take on the best pass rush they've faced since giving up nine sacks in their season opener against Texas A&M.

USC's offensive line has given up six sacks all season.

Defensive line

Edge: ASU

The Sun Devils get some big help to their defensive line front Saturday with the return of junior defensive tackle Ami Latu, who was critical in forcing pressure up the gut against Texas A&M. The rest of the front has been solid, getting more than their fair share of reps against the run in facing two consecutive triple-option teams.

Linebackers

Edge: ASU

This much we know so far about ASU — sophomore "Sam" and "Will" linebacker Christian Sam is a bona fide star in Todd Graham's defense this season. The rest of the front around him is deep and experienced, with players such as redshirt junior Laiu Moeakiola being particularly influential in stopping the run.

USC's Su'a Cravens is a gamebreaker at the position, but USC's depth lacks around the rest of this group.

Defensive backs

Edge: ASU

The Sun Devils start three seniors along four spots in their secondary, with the lone exception being freshman Kareem Orr taking the field safety spot from injured sophomore Armand Perry. 

USC comes close here, but an injury to senior defensive back Kevon Seymour forces sophomore Adoree' Jackson to pair with true freshman Iman Marshall as a cornerback duo to give ASU the edge.

Special teams

Edge: USC

Yes, ASU has improved on special teams. Junior kicker Zane Gonzalez is among the best in the Pac-12, and junior punter Matt Haack has dramatically improved his punting. Hayes' return to the kick return game will give the Sun Devils some explosiveness.

Despite all of that, USC has Jackson as a returner. End of story.

Overall

Edge: ASU


Reach the reporter at fardaya@asu.edu or follow @fardaya15 on Twitter.

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