The ASU football team was trounced by No. 13 Utah last Saturday 34-13, where the Sun Devils didn't score a touchdown until the fourth quarter. With a brutal loss like that, the Sun Devils are in search of a bounce-back week as they now sit at 1-3 on the season.
Next up is USC, the sixth-best team in the country.
"They're a very athletic team," said ASU interim coach Shaun Aguano. "From a defensive standpoint, we want to ensure their offense is off the field. From an offensive standpoint, we need to make sure that we control the time."
The Trojans are led by first-year head coach Lincoln Riley, who has brought plenty of pedigree and expectations to Los Angeles during his time at the University of Oklahoma. He led the Sooners to three straight College Football Playoff appearances in five seasons.
Riley began his reign with a convoy of transfers, leading the nation with 20 this past offseason. With an influx of new players, there are two that stand out. Projected 2024 first-round draft pick sophomore quarterback Caleb Williams and 2021 Biletnikoff Award winner for outstanding wide receiver junior Jordan Addison.
"USC went and got a couple of guys from the transfer portal that made their team a lot better," said ASU defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson. "We can't let them use their speed because if they just run up the field and use their speed, it could be a long day for our defense."
Both players have adjusted to the Pac-12 quickly. Williams has a perfect 9-0 touchdown-to-interceptions ratio through four games, while Addison is tied for first in the Pac-12 with six receiving touchdowns.
ASU senior defensive back Khoury Bethley called Addison one of the Trojan's go-to players. However, he urged the Sun Devil's defense to remember he is not the only playmaker on the USC offense.
"They got him (Addison), but there are a lot of other guys too that can get the ball," Bethley said. "They're just as capable as him. You can't just lock in on one guy because the other guys will do you just like he would. We just got to make sure we're locked in."
The Trojans have a dominant offense, scoring 42.3 points per game, second in the Pac-12. They have scored more than 40 points against three of four opponents this year. Comparatively, ASU is only averaging 22.8 points per game, which is 106th in the country.
Another transfer who has contributed to USC's offensive success is Travis Dye, a redshirt senior running back who came from Oregon last year. Dye is another player who has adjusted well. He has rushed for more than 100 yards in the past three games.
"I always try to be consistent." Dye said. "If something is not going right, someone's got to be the rock for the team. The running game always has to be consistent."
Despite having such a dynamic offense, the Trojans could only muster up 17 points last week in their Pac-12 opener against Oregon State. Going into the fourth quarter, USC was trailing 7-3.
The Trojans did end up winning the game thanks to two fourth-quarter touchdowns courtesy of Dye and Addison to down the Beavers 17-14. However, it showed the Trojans were more than beatable.
"Defensively, Oregon State was flying around the field," Henderson said. "That's a nice thing to see watching that game. If those guys are flying around, why can't we?"
USC's defense has been subpar so far this season. They give up 365.5 yards a game, compared to the Utes, who give up 244 yards per game. In comparison, ASU's defense gives up 377 yards per game. The USC defense isn't as star-studded as the offense, but one former Sun Devil resides with the Trojans — sophomore inside linebacker Eric Gentry.
The 6-foot-6-inch linebacker transferred out of ASU at the end of last season. Gentry arguably had the most impact for the Trojans on defense last week with eight tackles and one interception.
"He's one player that I think is doing really well, and I wish him the best," Aguano said. "I've always had a great relationship with him."
The Sun Devils will walk into the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. MST as a 25-point underdog. A week after Saturday, it doesn't get any easier for ASU as they take on No. 15 Washington.
Edited by Walker Smith, Logan Stanley and Piper Hansen.
Vincent Deangelis is a full-time reporter for the sports department at The State Press. He has previously worked for Arizona PBS and AZPreps365.com.