When the going gets tough, the tough get going. ASU head coach Todd Graham is probably reiterating similar phrases after three straight losses.
It won't get any easier as the Sun Devils face USC on Saturday afternoon. The Trojans' season has also been filled with disappointment, yet the team still possesses incredible talent. Surprisingly, both teams need wins to stay alive for Pac-12 South contention.
ASU has not left the Coliseum victorious since 1999. In order to reverse the trend, defensive coordinator Paul Randolph must limit Matt Barkley and the USC passing game's success.
On another note, before the entire ASU fan base completely freaks out, people should realize the Devils struggles of late have come against good or great football teams. There is my subliminal warning for the expected hatred I may hear walking throughout campus baring another L.
Listed below are my top 3 keys ASU must accomplish to pull off the upset over USC.
1. Keep USC Under 40 Points
In Matt Barkley vs. Taylor Kelly, USC wins in a landslide. Robert Woods/Marqise Lee combo vs. irrelevant receivers, enough said. Get the point?
ASU WILL NOT be able to win a high scoring contest! Therefore, the Devils defense needs to wake up from naptime and step up. I am not asking for Brandon Magee and company to hold the Trojans scoreless, let alone even in the 20's, just do not allow 40 plus points.
Thankfully, USC's defense appears abysmal, allowing 101 points between their last two contests. Despite the Devils anemic offensive effort in Corvallis, the unit can light up scoreboards, averaging 37.0 points per game.
Now the real question, how do you slow down USC's potent offense? Pretty simple answer: Consistent pressure and fundamentally sound football. Also, pop in last year's tape and devise a relatively similar game plan.
The scary part about Lane Kiffin's offense stems from the multitude of options, including an elite running back in Silas Redd. ASU cannot strictly play the pass because of Redd's 732 yards and nine touchdowns.
Todd Graham wants and believes ASU is a championship team. I love the confidence, but champions play great defense. ASU needs to display at least improved D in order to put the final dagger through the Trojan's weakening shield.
2. Nothing to Lose, Play "Balls to the Wall"
Effort. Physicality. Mental toughness. Regardless of the outcome, ASU must exemplify all three traits. Go out with a bang!
EXPECT Graham to take risks. Why kick field goals? Three points wont mean much, and Jon Mora would probably miss anyway. Playing conservative is not a smart idea; ask Mitt Romney.
Everybody loves upsets and underdogs. Do you believe in miracles? Clichés aside, there is little to lose for ASU and lots to gain. As Coach Graham said, the program under his tutelage is "Still searching for a signature win."
The Devils can only benefit themselves; a loss is expected yet a win could be practically earth shattering.
3. Get Cam, DJ and Marion Involved Consistently
Last week, the terrific trio was rather ineffective. As a result, ASU's offense clearly struggled and could be labeled stagnant. Therefore, Cameron Marshall, D.J. Foster and Marion Grice's importance cannot be understated.
The talented running backs also take pressure off quarterback Taylor Kelly. It was not a coincidence that Kelly struggled mightily as the backs faltered.
Offensive coordinator Mike Norvell always preaches about getting the ball in his play makers hands. Well Mr. Norvell, you failed doing so last week, but simply fix it to get back on my good side.
In addition, ground and pound football will eat up the clock, translating into fewer opportunities for Barkley. ASU won't be showcased positively on ESPN ‘s highlight reel unless the running backs play well.
Prediction Time: USC over ASU 52-31