Well, that didn't go so well, now did it? Arizona State let UCLA hang around long enough to connect on some big plays, and that was all she wrote.
Good news Sun Devil fans: the UCLA game is over!
Bad news: USC is up next, at the Coliseum, with the Trojans looking for revenge (or perhaps saying ‘thank you') after the drubbing the men of Troy took in Tempe last season, ultimately leading to Lane Kiffin's firing.
This game should be the wakeup call for the Sun Devils. The defense has to play better, and if it doesn't, this game will be a blowout, period. But there's one player who holds the key to the Sun Devils success on offense in this one, and that brings us to our Matchup of the Week:
Leonard Williams vs. Arizona State's Offensive Line
When evaluating Williams, you can't single out a specific lineman for him to matchup with. The thing that makes Williams so deadly is his versatility, and the Trojans do a great job utilizing that to not only keep others fresh, but also to exploit matchups in the trenches.
Williams is an absolute freak. At 6-5/300, he's the perfect size for a 3-technique, and he plays the 5-technique well, too. What this means is Williams can line up between guard and tackle or tackle and tight end extremely well. On surefire passing downs, Williams slides inside to a traditional defensive tackle position and can overwhelm opposing guards and centers.
Williams has already been compared to J.J. Watt, Sheldon Richardson and Justin Smith. Um, hello. Those are the three best interior pass rushers the NFL has seen in the last decade. Williams gets off the ball like you have never believe for a man his size, stays low and powers through blockers. He makes everyone around him better, because he creates mismatches all over the field.
Simply put, Leonard Williams is the best defensive player in America. And he will absolutely win this game for USC if the Sun Devils aren't careful.
The Trojans have an uncanny ability to force turnovers. USC boasts seven interceptions and two fumbles recovered on the season. The Trojans are outscoring opponents 49-0 off turnovers, mostly because they don't turn the ball over themselves. But 49 points in four games is staggering.
So how do the Trojans force so many turnovers? It all starts with Williams. His ability to flush opposing quarterbacks out of the pocket or make them deliver the ball before they are ready is unmatched. It leads to terrible mistakes and horrific turnovers. USC is too talented at linebacker and safety, especially with Su'a Cravens being given more freedom to roam, and teams that get sloppy are rarely successful.
Boston College beat the Trojans, sure, but they did so with Williams battling an ankle injury. He's healthy now. Just ask Stanford what Williams can do. He was hurt in that game, too, and dominated. Kevin Hogan looked like Chad Henne running for his life.
This game will be a real test of the Sun Devils new and improved offensive line. Christian Westerman is as talented as they come at guard, Jamil Douglass is the strongest lineman in the conference and Nick Kelly has been solid so far. But while all three of them will get a shot in the NFL at some point, none of them are on Williams' level. The kid is going to be the first defensive player taken, and could go number one depending on which team has the selection.
The key will be Westerman and his fellow guard, Vi Teofilo. The two of them have to get a hand on Williams on every play. Even if they read blitz, don't lose focus on Williams. Trust that help will come, or let Mike Bercovici diagnose the blitz and get rid of the football. But do not let Williams get to him, or even around him.
Williams will want to leverage his burst to neutralize the Sun Devils immense strength up front. Changing the snap count will be important, even in a hostel road environment. The linemen have to be cognizant of the count and not take penalties. The second false start penalties start becoming a factor, Williams has won. The Sun Devils would be forced to go back to traditional counts, and Williams is smart enough to jump them.
It would be doomsday.
No matter what the offensive line does coming out of the huddle, someone has to be accountable for No. 94. He's the best player on the field at all times, and the only one who can single handedly make this game a blowout. If Leonard Williams is left to run free, he's going to cause havoc and force turnovers.
And USC knows what to do with turnovers.