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ASU Football: First look at USC

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ASU's Pac-12 opener against USC has always been circled on the Sun Devils' calendar since the schedule was released last fall. But how do the Trojans look going into their first road game?

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

As the Arizona State Sun Devils just squeak through nonconference play, the 2-1 Sun Devils begin their Pac-12 gauntlet against an old rival, the USC Trojans, who ASU conquered with the "Jael Mary" in last year's meeting in Los Angeles. Here is your first look this week at the 2015 Trojans:

Head Coach - Steve Sarkisian

Steve Sarkisian returns for just his second year as head coach of the most storied football program on the West Coast, and holds a 11-5 record with the Trojans. After being in and out of the program from 2001 to 2008 working under Pete Carroll and Lane Kiffin as an offensive coordinator, Kiffin returned to USC in 2014 and beat out Ed Orgeron for the vacant head coaching position left by Kiffin.

Sarkisian also served as the Oakland Raiders' quarterbacks coach in the 2004 season. He made a name for himself as a head coach at Washington, where he accumulated a 34-29 record from 2009-13 and took the Huskies to three bowl games in five years.

2015 Results

Well, USC (2-1, 0-1 Pac-12) took care of its first two nonconference opponents that seemed like automatic wins from the start. It was an easy day at the office for quarterback Cody Kessler, who tossed four touchdowns in the Trojans' 55-6 season-opening win over the Arkansas State Red Wolves. The following week, Kessler continued his aerial assault by going 26-for-31 with 410 passing yards and three touchdowns in a 59-9 victory over the Idaho Vandals.

Pac-12 play, however, became an entirely different story. The Trojans dropped their conference opener to the Stanford Cardinal 41-31 in the Los Angeles Memorial-Coliseum. USC gave up 474 total yards (195 on the ground) to a Cardinal offense that experienced little success in its previous two games. Stanford dominated the ball by controlling it for just under 40 minutes and held the Trojans to 4-of-10 on third-down attempts.

Key Players

QB Cody Kessler - The senior returns in his third year as a starter and has established himself as a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate in his best season so far. Along with his 10 touchdowns, Kessler boasts a 78.7 percent completion rate and hasn't thrown an interception in 89 pass attempts.

RB Tre Madden - After missing the entire 2014 season due to turf toe, Madden returns as USC's premier tailback. The senior has had just 28 carries in three games, but he averaged 7.4 yards per rush and found the endzone four times on those touches. Madden's health is something to watch this week, though, as the Orange County Register reported he's listed as questionable due to a left knee injury he suffered against Stanford.

WR JuJu Smith-Schuster - One of college football's best underclassmen, Smith-Schuster has scored at least once in his first three games this year and has four touchdowns for the season. Although Smith-Schuster played second-fiddle to Nelson Agholor in 2014, the Sun Devils kept him in check in last year's meeting, as Smith-Schuster only recorded 39 receiving yards on four catches.

LB Su'a Cravens - A linebacker-safety hybrid, Cravens anchors the Trojans' defense as a captain in his senior season and seems to always be near the ball. He recorded 13 total tackles last week and stands second overall on the team with 21. He has recorded a sack in each of his last two games and had an interception against Arkansas State.