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The Edge: Angry Trojans will be tough to slow down

Photo by Matt Pavelek.


Freshman Matt Barkley looks like he was pulled from the cast of a high-school football movie.

His All-American appeal has already led to Tim Tebow-type treatment from national announcers.

While his positive attributes have been overstated, it’s difficult to deny his efficient play on the field.

While USC hasn’t been a vertical offense this season, Barkley seems to make the proper read much of the time, and shows enough upside to dismiss Jesse Palmer references.

Danny Sullivan eats up broken coverage. The senior completed 16 of 29 passes against Cal on Saturday with two interceptions and a touchdown when a Cal safety was out of position.

Most of ASU’s explosive passing plays have been the result of missed assignments in the secondary, something USC’s Taylor Mays-led unit is less likely to do.

The Samson Szakascy package could be used more this week.

Advantage: USC

Running backs

Junior Joe McKnight’s elusive style has him averaging more than six yards per carry without breaking a run of more than 54 yards.

Junior Allen Bradford is a load behind him who also has straight-line speed. While the duo doesn’t match up with Reggie Bush and Lendale White of yore, their styles are complementary.

Sophomore Ryan Bass hurt his chances of playing time with a goal-line fumble against Cal.

Freshman Cameron Marshall capitalized on Bass’ mishap, proving to be a good fit when ASU ran out of two tight-end sets.

Marshall’s size in combination with his running style may give the Sun Devils more versatile and adaptive personnel grouping and alignments.

Senior Dimitri Nance may be limited due to a shoulder injury.

Advantage: USC

Wide receiver/Tight en

Senior Damian Williams is third in the conference in receiving yards per game (75.9).

Senior Anthony McCoy is one of the most productive pass-catching tight ends in the conference, second on the team in receptions and receiving yards.

McCoy is a potential first-round pick in the upcoming NFL draft. The receiving unit for USC is not as good as it’s been in year’s past.

ASU has been beset by injuries to its receiving unit on a weekly basis.

Sophomore speedster T.J. Simpson could miss the rest of the season with a high ankle sprain.

Sophomore Gerell Robinson and junior Kerry Taylor are questionable. The lack of certainty at the position could take ASU out of its shotgun tendencies.

Advantage: USC

Offensive line

Despite struggling at times last week against a super-charged Oregon defense on the road, USC’s offensive line has protected and opened up running lanes all year, allowing only 11 sacks on the season and averaging 5.4 yards per carry as a team.

The Sun Devils front seemed to enjoy the switch to more traditional offensive sets. On the left side of the line, senior tackle Shawn Lauvao had perhaps his best game of the season.

USC’s front seven, despite the performance against Oregon last week, will be far and away the biggest challenge ASU has faced all year.

Advantage: USC

Defensive Line

Everson Griffen, a junior defensive end and pass rush specialist from Avondale, Ariz., has eight sacks on the year.

Sophomore nose tackle Jurrell Casey is a force, third on the team in tackles while playing the position where they are hardest to get.

Redshirt freshman Nick Perry has seven sacks on the opposite side of Griffen.

As always, the Trojans are physically formidable up front and will use their speed and quickness advantages against an average ASU offensive line.

After being dominated by Stanford’s offensive line, the Sun Devils’ defensive line rotation turned the tables on Cal.

ASU held one of the nation’s best running backs in Jahvid Best to less than four yards per carry and created havoc on Cal’s passing game.

Advantage: USC


USC’s new group of linebackers struggled in coverage against Oregon’s, up-tempo, “utilize all space on the field” offense.

Junior Chris Galippo is second on the team in tackles and had an interception against Ohio State.

Junior linebacker Michael Morgan has four sacks on the blitz this year.

ASU’s linebackers maintained their above-average play, though senior Mike Nixon dropped what would have been a game-changing interception.

ASU linebackers are very good in the run game, but have seemed to struggle some recently in pass coverage.

Advantage: ASU


Senior Taylor Mays may be the most intimidating presence in any secondary in college football following in the footsteps of former Trojan greats Dennis Smith and Ronnie Lott.

The Trojan secondary only has three interceptions on the season but is second in Pac-10 pass defense efficiency.

Interview with walk-on starting cornerback Pierre Singfield, State Press Television

By Andrew Boven

Despite allowing 350 yards passing last week, much of it has to be chalked up to the individual playmaking Kevin Riley displayed once he broke the pocket.

Freshman cornerback Deveron Carr had a surprisingly good game, replacing senior Pierre Singfield, who had been burned early.

Advantage: USC

Special Teams

USC senior Jordon Congdon has made 10 of 12 kicks on the year and junior Jacob Harfman has averaged only 40 yards a punt.

Damian Williams has returned two punts for touchdowns.

Junior Thomas Weber has had his distance limited by a groin injury this season, but he remains accurate.

ASU has been stuck in the return-game drought much of the year, ranking seventh on kick offs and eighth in punt returns among conference teams.

Freshman Jamal Miles’ role on special teams, though, adds big-play capability for ASU.

Junior Trevor Hankins, with his 47-yard average and two punts inside the twenty last week, remains a Ray Guy Award candidate.


Overall EDGE: USC

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