Week 11 – Arizona State at USC

Posted Nov 8, 2012

Week 11 Fearless Prediction – Arizona State at USC

Arizona State (5-4) at USC (6-3) Nov. 10, 3:00, Pac-12 Networks

Here’s The Deal: USC was embarrassed by Oregon at The Coliseum last week, yet there’s still plenty to play for in November. A rematch with the Ducks on Nov. 30, for instance.

The Trojans were overrated in the preseason. That’s been elementary for weeks. However, despite losing for the third time a week ago, Troy still controls its own destiny in the South Division of the Pac-12. Hard to imagine, but true. If USC, which will spend the rest of the regular season in Los Angeles, can beat Arizona State and UCLA the next two Saturday, it’ll capture the South and likely travel to Eugene the week after playing Notre Dame.

Once-upstart Arizona State has fallen on hard times in recent weeks. The Sun Devils, who ascended into the Top 25 at 5-1, have been outclassed in consecutive losses to Oregon, UCLA and Oregon State. Whatever mojo the program possessed in the middle of October has long since disappeared. In its place is an ASU team that is no longer even assured of qualifying for a second-tier bowl game.

Why Arizona State Might Win: USC has lots of individual talent on defense, but you can’t tell from the product on the field.

The Trojans have allowed 101 points over the last two games. And while Arizona State isn’t Arizona or Oregon, it does have the requisite weapons to move the ball on a defense that’s getting holes blown through it. The Sun Devils boast the benefit of balance, ranking 41st nationally on the ground and 40th through the air. Graham wants to employ his trio of talented backs, Marion Grice, D.J. Foster and Cameron Marshall, to soften the Troy defense and tee up QB Taylor Kelly on play-action. The sophomore has been sporadic, but does have four three-touchdown games on the resume.

Why USC Might Win: The Arizona State defense hasn’t been the same since Oregon came to town on Oct. 18.

Stout in the early going, the Sun Devils have since allowed an average of more than 40 points over the last three games. And the secondary has been victimized. Enter Troy and its high-flying passing attack. Matt Barkley has thrown 15 touchdown passes in his last three games, maximizing the enormous talent of his wide receivers and tight ends. Sophomore WR Marqise Lee, in particular, has been one of the nation’s premier players—on either side of the ball—abusing opposing defenders in just his second season on campus. With the addition of Silas Redd out of the backfield, the Trojans will be able to outgun an ASU team that doesn’t have nearly as many playmakers on the outside.

What To Watch Out For: USC and its defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin have clearly had problems stopping spread offenses. Arizona State sports a spread attack as well, but fortunately doesn’t run it with the same pace or proficiency.

George Uko. Dion Bailey. Hayes Pullard. Nickell Robey. T.J. McDonald. The Trojans have individual talent, but the execution just hasn’t been there against better offenses. They’re allowing too many big plays, making too many mistakes, and yards after contact are driving the staff batty. However, since the Sun Devils receivers are marginal, it ought to allow Kiffin to assign a few more resources from his back seven to stopping the run. Robey and fellow corners Josh Shaw and Torin Harris can aid the cause by neutralizing wideouts in man coverage.

What Will Happen: USC was supposed to win the South in 2012. That possibility will still exist by Sunday morning.

Arizona State is a better matchup for an obviously flawed Troy team than its last two opponents. The Trojans will be able to control the tempo of the game without being dragged into a track meet. As long as ASU DT Will Sutton is prevented from blowing up the backfield, USC will efficiently run its pro-style offense by contrasting the running of Redd with the precision passing of Barkley. Able to play with a surplus for the first time in weeks, the Trojans will recover last week’s debacle to send the sliding Sun Devils to a fourth straight loss.

CFN Prediction: USC 39 … Arizona State 27
ATS Consultants Line (Click for more lines and picks) USC -9 O/U: 65.5
Must Watch Rating (5 – Skyfall, 1 – Wreck It Ralph): 3