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ASU vs. USC: Complete game preview and TV schedule

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The Sun Devils look to rebound in the unfriendly confines of the Los Angeles Coliseum.

Christian Petersen

Arizona State Sun Devils (3-1, 1-1 Pac-12) vs. USC Trojans (3-1, 2-0 Pac-12)

Kickoff: 4:30 p.m. PST/7:30 p.m. EST

Location: Los Angeles, California- Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum

Television: FOX (Joe Davis, Joey Harrington, Kris Budden)

Radio: Arizona Sports 98.7 FM/Sirus 108 (Tim Healy, Jeff Van Raaphorst, Doug Franz)

Weather: Saturday calls for a high of 95 degrees and a low of 67 degrees. Should be around 90 degrees at kickoff with temperatures dropping into the 70's in the second half. Wind around 10 mph.

What the Sun Devils are wearing: Arizona State will be wearing black helmets, white jerseys and black pants.

Series History: USC leads the all-time series 19-11 but Arizona State has won two of the last three meetings. It has however, been 15 years since the Sun Devils have beaten USC on the road.

USC's season to date: With a strong finish to 2013 and a new coaching staff, expectations were high for the Trojans entering 2014. Most believed USC had the talent to compete for the Pac-12 South, with their achilles heal being a lack of depth due to sanctions.

In their first two games, the Trojans lived up to expectations. USC began the year with a 52-13 drubbing of Fresno State in which the Trojans put up 701 yards of total offense, including 424 yards through the air. In Week 2, the Trojans topped Stanford on the road, 13-10, making it two straight victories over the Cardinal.

USC moved up to No. 9 in the AP Poll, when they suffered their only setback of 2014, a 37-31 defeat at the hands of Boston College. In that game, the Trojan defense gave up a staggering 452 yards on the ground. Perhaps even more alarming, the Trojans managed just 20 yards rushing.

After a week off, USC came back this past Saturday and dominated Oregon State in route to a 35-10 victory in the coliseum. The USC defense held Oregon State to just 181 total yards.

Arizona State on offense: Despite losing by 35 points to UCLA, the Sun Devils outgained the Bruins 626-580 and had 18 more first downs than UCLA. Mike Bercovici set Arizona State records in attempts and completions in his first start, throwing for 488 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions.

No Sun Devil rushed for more than 50 yards against UCLA and to the surprise of many, Deantre Lewis led the Sun Devils with 46 yards on the ground. D.J. Foster managed just 30 yards on nine carries, his first game of the season rushing for less than 100 yards on the ground.

Jaelen Strong was back to his normal self against UCLA, notching 12 catches for 146 yards. After catching just seven passes combined in the first three games of the season, Cameron Smith played his best game as a Sun Devil last Thursday. The sophomore caught eight passes for 95 yards and a touchdown.

Through four games, Arizona State ranks fourth in the conference and No. 16 nationally in scoring offense, averaging 42 points per game. The Sun Devils lead the Pac-12 in rushing offense (362.8 YPG) and rank 9th nationally in total offense.

The USC defense as been as good as advertised through their first four games. The Trohans have only allowed more than 13 points once and rank second in the conference in scoring defense and passing defense. USC has yet to allow as passing touchdown this season.

The Trojan defense is led by All-American defensive end Leonard Williams. The junior leads the team with 27 total tackles and is tied for the team lead with two sacks. Sophomore Su'a Cravens has tallied 19 total tackles leads USC with five tackles for loss.

Key Matchups

QB Mike Bercovici vs. USC Secondary: Not only does USC have the No. 2 pass defense in the Pac-12, they have a turnover margin that ranks No. 7 in the nation. USC has notched seven interceptions on the season from seven different players. Sun Devil fans saw last week how one mistake can change a game, the USC defense is filled with playmakers, especially in the secondary. It is going to be important for Bercovici to limit his mistakes.

LT Jamil Douglas vs. DE Leonard Williams: The USC defensive end is the best pro prospect on either team. He stands 6-foot-5 and weights around 300 points. He has the build of a defensive tackle and the speed of an end. Last season, Williams posted 74 tackles. 13.5 tackles for loss and six sacks. The way he is controlled by the Arizona State offensive line will be very important on Saturday.

Arizona State on defense: The Sun Devils had one of their worst performances under Todd Graham against the Bruins, letting up 580 yards of offense. Perhaps what stung the most was the mental errors and pool tackling that is so rare under Graham. UCLA scored four touchdowns of over 80 yards, granted two of those were not while the Sun Devil defense was on the field.

"We start practice off every day with tackling," said Graham. "It's the first thing we do and we work on it every day. I think our guys may have been a little too hyped up on knocking guys down and we just really need to focus on making sure that we get the tackle and stay in control."

The Arizona State defense ranks ninth in the conference in total defense, No. 10 in scoring defense, No. 12 in rushing defense and fifth in passing defense. Much of Arizona State's struggles on defense stems from their lack of a pass rush. Will Sutton and Carl Bradford have moved on to the NFL and the Sun Devils have struggled to get pressure on the quarterback.

"The ability to impact the quarterback is the greatest challenge," said Graham. "That is what you see us working on the most is getting them to get off the football and be able to execute the techniques to impact quarterbacks.

"Jaxon (Hood), Marcus Hardison, Edmond (Boateng), and Antonio (Longino) are all playing really well. What you'll find is that every snap they take, they get better. We are working hard to develop them, the key is fundamentals. It happens so fast inside and it is very violent and physical in there."

Key Matchups

QB Cody Kessler vs. ASU Secondary: Kessler has been extremely effective thus far this season. The junior has 10 touchdown passes and zero interceptions through four games. He has a 72-percent completion percentage and is throwing for an average of 276.8 yards per game.

The Sun Devils allowed Brett Hundley to throw for 355 yards and four touchdowns last week. Part of that is the result of a poor pass rush, but the Arizona State secondary missed numerous tackles. USC has the most talented batch of receivers that the Sun Devils have seen thus far.

OG Viane Talamalvao/Toa Loebendahn vs. DL Jaxon Hood/Marcus Hardison: The Trojans start two freshman along the interior of the offensive line. Both were highly recruited out of high school, but they are still freshman and offensive line may be the hardest position to play as a freshman.

The Arizona State defensive line needs to create pressure on Kessler and stop the interior running game of USC. Hood, Hardison, Viliami Latu and Tashon Smallwood are going to be very important on Saturday.

Final Breakdown

The Sun Devils have not beaten USC on the road since 1999. Taylor Kelly has officially been ruled out for this game and Bercovici faces an uphill battle if he wants to lead Arizona State to victory. The key for Arizona State is establish the running game and get Foster going early. If Bercovici is forced to throw the ball 40-45 times, the Sun Devils do not have a chance of winning.

The key player to watch on the USC defense besides Williams is Cravens, who plays a hybrid safety/linebacker position much like the hybrid that Devil backer is between the defensive line and linebackers. Cravens has great size and speed in the secondary and USC uses him in different positions.

On defense, the Sun Devils have to find a way to get to Kessler and make him uncomfortable. Graham mentioned earlier in the week that Javorius Allen and Justin Davis are two of the best running backs the Sun Devils will face all season and Nelson Agholor and JuJu Smith pose a challenge for the Arizona State secondary.

Prediction: USC 34, Arizona State 24