USC will take on Arizona State in the Trojans’ second Pac-12 bout and first road matchup of the season. While it’s tempting to look past the Sun Devils, we must remember there’s a reason looking past opponents is a college football sin. Here are a couple of reasons USC should keep its eyes on the underdogs.
USC must stay focused during their first away game
1. Trojans’ shaky road performance
Everyone knows home-field advantage is meaningful. The 12th man is often the difference in those neck-and-neck games that come down to the final play. But when does this work best? It works when a good team gets a chance to host a great team. And if the home long shots can be blessed by the college football gods, the game may even be held under the lights. This is when the 12th man comes out in full force making their presence felt on every down.
While ASU will get a chance to host the Trojans at night, they are missing one key ingredient to creating the perfect storm…they aren’t a good team. This huge hurdle will likely throw a wrench in ASU fans’ lofty goals of storming the field on Saturday, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. That glimmer of hope comes in the form of USC’s curious away record.
Last year, Lincoln Riley led his team to an impressive 11-3 record. With a Heisman winner and a New Year’s Six bowl appearance, anyone would be foolish to say Riley’s team was anything but dominant in his debut season. However, it’s hard not to notice that all three of the team’s losses came outside of the Coliseum. In fact, the dominating Trojans held an impressive scoring differential of +168 at home, while their games outside of LA left them with a measly +two differential in scoring. This, coinciding with their 4-3 traveling record, may be just enough for the Sun Devils to will their way to a close game.
2. USC plays as a big favorite to first-year coach
Though this might be a tired conversation for Trojans fans, ASU faithful will love to sink their teeth into this talking point as they weather this week’s sea of despair.
Of course, all Trojans fans remember that fateful 2007 October night which saw the second-ranked and 41-point favorite USC Trojans drop a game at home to the 1-3 Stanford Cardinals. From the two-possession lead with 6:00 minutes left on the clock to the 4th and 20 conversion by Richard Sherman that looked a little short to the naked eye, USC fans will never forget that game, and every big underdog the Trojans play will love to remind them of it. This 24-23 loss to Stanford happened to come at the hands of first-year head coach Jim Harbaugh. Funny enough, this season also marks Kenny Dillingham’s first year at the helm for ASU and while Dillingham also has to match up against a top-five USC team his squad is seen as a merely 35-point underdog.
Although Trojans fans have heard these geers enough to know it’s best to ignore them, history has a funny way of repeating itself if you’re not paying attention.
Now, back to reality
With all this being said, ASU is a team already riddled with injuries that must now host the Heisman favorite and his extraordinary receiving corps.
Last week ASU head coach Dillingham found himself calling plays for his fourth-string quarterback, a quarterback who was playing no reps at practice. This week with QB1 and QB2 already out Dillingham is hopeful to get his third string, who left last week’s game with a muscle injury, under center. On top of all this, the Sun Devils will be matching up against the best defense they’ve seen this year. USC’s defense recorded their most turnovers of the season last week as they recovered two fumbles and grabbed one pick. This should be frightening news to Dillingham’s Sun Devils who gave the ball away eight times in their scoreless loss to Fresno State last week.
While it’s fun to think up “What ifs?” there is no expectation in Tempe or anywhere else that USC will not steamroll past this Pac-12 matchup.
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