The defending national champions make their way across the Interstate 10 today as they prepare to face the Arizona State Sun Devils. With a perfect record on the line and a Pac-10 and USC record 25 straight wins, the Trojans step into a game that looks like it could turn out to be the great offensive shootout that their game with Oregon wasn't. Arizona State is no Oregon though. The Sun Devil offense is capable of putting up some incredible numbers and has a solid enough defense to give the USC offensive machine a run for their money. According to weather.com, the temperature at game time on Saturday should reach up into the high 90's and has a good chance of eclipsing the 100-degree mark. Conditioning should be a factor in this desert contest.
The Sun Devils are led by junior QB Sam Keller who has amassed 16 touchdowns against only 2 interceptions in four games while completing 60% of his passes. Keller's favorite target is WR Derek Hagan who has already grabbed 5 passes for touchdowns and leads the team with 431 receiving yards on the year.
As if having a weapon like Hagan wasn't enough for Keller to do his dirty work, the Sun Devil QB also has one of the best tight ends in the nation to pass the ball to. Zach Miller has only caught 5 passes on the young season and was not available for the last two games. Amongst Keller's other weapons of choice, he can throw to WR Rudy Burgess and TE Jamaal Lewis, who have combined for 7 TDs themselves.
On the ground, the Sun Devils are showcasing super frosh Keegan Herring who has hit pay-dirt 4 times already. With a balanced attack and the home field advantage, the Sun Devils are looking to take some revenge for the 45-7 drubbing they received at the hands of the Trojans in last years' Coliseum meeting.
"That game wasn't what ASU football is all about. Our players know that," said coach Dirk Koetter at his Monday press conference. "We got off to a horrible start and the crowd got into it."
It's going to take much more than a home crowd to stop this rolling USC offense though. Matt Leinart and company got off to a slow start in Oregon, falling behind by 13 points in the first half before pouring it on and scoring 45 unanswered points against the Ducks in Autzen Stadium.
Just a couple numbers to chew on:
25 - the number of games the Trojans have won in a row since losing to Cal in 2003. The longest winning streak in the nation seeks to protect itself yet again on the road. As impressive as that streak is, it only ties the USC school record for most wins in a row. Should the Trojans win this weekend, they will finally break a streak that was set in 1933.
81 - the number of career touchdown passes thrown by Leinart, setting a USC record. The old Pac-10 record held by John Elway stood at 77 for over two decades until it was broken by Sun Devil QB Andrew Walter, who had 82 passing TDs in his career. Leinart has a chance to break Walter's record this weekend.
2 - the number of USC players who went over the century mark in rushing yards against Oregon. The Trojan defense held Oregon to only 65 yards on the ground while pummeling their counterparts for 278 yards on the ground. ASU has a strong rushing game but is suspect in being able to handle the rush themselves, so look for both teams to try to establish the run early on to open up the passing game for their first-rate quarterbacks.
59,129 - a state attendance record for an event in Oregon. USC has been marked on teams' calendars all year and will continue to draw sellouts as the season goes on. Capacity at Sun Devil stadium is 73,000, but that was eclipsed by the largest crowd against Cal back in 1996 when ASU drew 74,963. This weekend's game is a sellout according to ASU sports information.
When talking about a game between USC and ASU, what does Oregon State have to do with anything? Oregon State, in its first three games, managed only 77, 83 and 42 rushing yards respectively. Of note, that 77 yards was against Division I-AA Portland State. However, against ASU, even though they lost, the Beavers were able to amass 144 yards on the ground. In ASU's loss to the Tigers, they surrendered 190 yards on the ground and 180 against the Wildcats of Northwestern.
Should USC be able to establish their run game with the strength of the offensive line and the combination of Reggie Bush to the outside and LenDale White to the inside, ASU could be in for a long day. The Trojans are averaging nearly 250 yards on the ground to go with the 370 they accumulate through the air in each game.
If the Trojans don't have the same miscues they had against the Ducks, this game against the Sun Devils, with the home crowd, the weather, the great opposing offense, and everything else going for the ASU team, should be a cakewalk. Look for the Trojans to roll up over 550 yards once again and pour on over 40 points in a rout of the ASU Sun Devils for the second year in a row.
FOUR GAMES TO WATCH
Boise State Broncos @ Hawaii Warriors - Aloha Stadium - Honolulu, HI
While this game takes place at 6:05 PM local time, fans on the east coast will have to tune in after midnight to see the two 1-2 WAC teams square off. Hawaii has not looked impressive even coming off a shutout win over the Idaho Vandals. The Broncos also have had a rough start coming out with losses to Georgia and Oregon State but put up impressive numbers in a win against Bowling Green last weekend. This is an important game for the direction of both of these programs, but look for Dan Hawkins' Broncos to put on another offensive skills display on the islands. Boise State takes this one by three touchdowns.
Washington State Cougars @ Oregon State Beavers - Reser Stadium - Corvallis, OR
A real tell-tale game for both teams. Oregon State started strong with a victory over Portland State and a hard-fought win against the Broncos but has fallen on hard times after being handled easily by Louisville and then with a tough loss at home to the Sun Devils. The Cougars go into Corvallis with a perfect 3-0 record, however, accumulated against unproven competition. Grambling State is hardly a good workout to get prepared for Pac-10 play. This should be a great quarterback battle between Matt Moore of OSU and Alex Brink of WSU. Look for the Cougar defense to play a big part in this game on the road. Beavers fall by a field goal.
New Mexico Lobos @ TCU Horned Frogs - Amon Carter Stadium - Fort Worth, TX
Both teams come into this contest with unblemished conference records but have stumbled to lesser teams towards their identical 3-1 records. TCU started the season off with a bang by defeating Oklahoma in Norman and have come into their new conference like gangbusters. The Lobos come into this game having lost on the road a week ago to UTEP and knowing they have three of the next four games on the road as well. The Horned Frogs will hold court and begin their run towards the Mountain West crown. Look for TCU to win comfortably by two touchdowns.
Washington Huskies @ UCLA Bruins - Rose Bowl - Pasadena, CA
Tyrone's Huskies are reeling after putting up a 1-3 record in four games. All the emotion in the world couldn't help the Huskies with their lack of talent on both sides of the ball as the Notre Dame Irish took them behind the woodshed in their own home. The Bruins are on the other end of the spectrum. Healthy and coming off a bye weekend, UCLA looks to open their conference season with a bang and should do so quite easily at home and against a cupcake of an opponent. Maurice Drew and Drew Olson are running the offense with incredible ease and should put up more impressive numbers against these Husky defenders. UCLA will win by two touchdowns in the Rose Bowl.
|Copyright © 2005 SouthernCollegeSports.com. All rights reserved. This website is an unofficial and independently operated source of news and information not affiliated with any school, team, or league.|