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ASU vs. USC: Complete Game Preview and TV Schedule

Everything you need to know as the Sun Devils host the USC Trojans.

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Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

No. 19 USC Trojans (2-1, 0-1 Pac-12) vs. Arizona State Sun Devils (2-1, 0-0 Pac-12)

Kickoff: 10:30 p.m. ET/7:30 p.m. PT

Television: ESPN (Dave Pasch, Brian Griese, Tom Luginbill)

Radio: ESPN Phoenix 620 | Sirus 137 (Tim Healey, Jeff Van Raaphorst, Doug Franz)

What ASU is Wearing: The Sun Devils will be donning their maroon jerseys, pants and helmets. Fans are encouraged to also wear maroon as apart of their annual "Maroon Monsoon."

Series History: USC has an 18-12 all-time record against Arizona State. The Trojans are 8-7 all-time on the road against ASU.

The Sun Devils are 3-2 against USC over their last five meetings, including two victories in a row. Todd Graham is 2-1 against USC as the head coach of ASU and Steve Sarkisian is 0-4 all-time against ASU.

USC in 2015: USC looked as good as advertised through its first two games of the season. The Trojans topped Arkansas State and Idaho by a combined score of 114-15 in weeks one and two. Quarterback Cody Kessler posted QB ratings over over 200 in both games, throwing for seven touchdowns and no interceptions.

However, it was a different story when Steve Sarkisian led his Trojans into conference play against the Stanford Cardinal last weekend. USC surrendered 41 points and over 450 yards of offense to the Cardinal in route to a 41-31 defeat. The Trojans had a difficult time getting off the field on third down, as Stanford was 8-for-12 on third downs in their victory.

The Trojans have been led by their senior quarterback. Kessler is completing over 75 percent of his passes for 922 yards and 10 touchdowns in his three games this season.

In his USC career, Kessler has been intercepted just 12 times in 904 pass attempts. The Trojans also feature a three-headed rushing attack, led by Tre Madden, Ronald Jones II and Justin Davis.

ASU on Offense: After a sluggish start, the Sun Devil offense finally started to click in the second half against New Mexico, putting up 24 points in the final two quarters against the Lobos.

A lot of the issues on offense stem from the injuries on that side of the ball, as Todd Graham and some of the offensive coaching staff have acknowledged over the last two weeks.

ASU's troubles start on the offensive line, where ASU was breaking in two new offensive tackles this season who both have happened to miss time in ASU's first three games. Chemistry is important, especially along the offensive line, and it has been hindered by both tackles missing game action with minor injuries.

"It's just getting everybody healthy. Those are our three tackles (Evan Goodman, Sam Jones and Billy McGehee) that are going to play," Todd Graham said. "I think getting them healthy where they can play each week. Sam was hurt in camp. That slowed his process. And then Evan got hurt, now Billy got hurt. So it's trying to get a rhythm there."

Multiple key position players have also suffered injuries. It began with Kalen Ballage catching mono a few days before ASU played Texas A&M, he still has not played in a game this season. De'Chavon Hayes has been slowed by a hamstring injury, forcing D.J. Foster to split carries in the backfield along with his time at wide receiver.

The wide receivers were a question mark heading into the season, and not much has been resolved through three games. One player has emerged, and that is redshirt junior wide receiver Tim White.

"Oh, I think we know exactly who our receivers are," Graham said. "I think Tim White is a big-play guy for us. D.J. is a big-play guy for us."

ASU now turns its attention to the USC defense, perhaps the most talented defense in the league. USC allowed 15 points combined in its first two games and then surrendered 41 to Stanford last week. The Trojans allowed 474 yards to a Stanford offense that had looked very pedestrian in the first two weeks of the season.

"I think one of the keys to this game is third down," offensive coordinator Mike Norvell said. "You look at Stanford, I think they were 8-for-12 on third down, if you are efficient on third downs, you can really keep the chains moving."

The Trojans feature two of the top cornerbacks in the league in senior Kevon Seymour and sophomore Adoree' Jackson. True freshman Iman Marshall stands 6-foot-2 and is already one of the most physical corners in the league.

"This will be the third time we have went against coach (Justin) Wilcox from when he was at Washington and then at USC," Norvell said. "They run a great scheme. They have been a bit more aggressive this year with their blitzes. They have probably the best corners in the league. Su'a Cravens is a dynamic player and they have some guys up front who make some plays, so we are playing a talented defense."

Key Matchups

QB Mike Bercovici vs. OLB Su'a Cravens: Cravens is one of the most talented and versatile defensive players in the conference. Cravens started his career in the secondary and spent most of last season at linebacker, where he continues to play.

Cravens can rush the passer or cover skill players out in the backfield. It is important for Bercovici to know where Cravens is at all times on Saturday night. Norvell stated on Wednesday USC has been more aggressive than in recent years and it starts with Cravens.

ASU Wide Receivers vs. USC Cornerbacks: USC has three really good corners in Seymour, Jackson and Marshall plus a pair of talented safeties. The ASU wide receivers have had a difficult time creating separation against the likes of New Mexico and Cal Poly, especially downfield. ASU has completed just one pass over 40 yards this season and that was a 93-yard touchdown reception by Demario Richard on a busted coverage against the Lobos.

ASU needs to be able to get chunk gains down the field. It starts with the ASU offensive line protecting Bercovici, but the ASU receivers need to prove they can create separation against talented cornerbacks.

ASU on Defense: After playing two triple option offenses in a row, the Sun Devils get back to some normalcy this week against the Trojans.

"I didn't enjoy those two weeks. I'll be honest with you, it's very difficult to defend that," Graham said. "And I think our guys did well. I feel good about where we are defensively. I think that's been difficult, obviously, playing against that style, and so ready to get back to -- but Pac-12 is not no -- it's pretty challenging."

The Trojans will look a lot like the Texas A&M Aggies did, from a skill position player perspective. JuJu Smith-Schuster, Steven Mitchell Jr. and Darreus Rogers provide USC with three great options at wide receiver and their quarterback is one of the best in the nation.

Cody Kessler is completing 78.7 percent of his passes and has thrown 10 touchdowns to zero interceptions this year. In his USC career, Kessler has thrown just 12 interceptions in 904 pass attempts.

"You can't let him set his feet," defensive coordinator Keith Patterson said about Kessler. "We have to do a good job at disrupting receiver-timing and vertical releases and making him move his feet an throw the ball on the run."

Even with the options at wide receiver, USC's running back corps is perhaps the most dynamic part of its offense. The Trojans will rotate three running backs, Tre Madden, Ronald Jones II and Justin Davis. Madden has been limited in practice this week after sustaining a calf injury against Stanford last week.

"Obviously, it starts with the depth they have at running back," Patterson said. "They have great skill at running back so you can't allow them to set up the play-action pass. So we have to stop the run because then it just opens up play-action shots down the field."

Key Matchups

USC Offensive Line vs. ASU Defensive Line: A major part in containing Kessler is pressuring him and mot allowing him to set his feet on his throws. The decision ASU faces is when and how often to blitz. Graham and Patterson love to blitz, however it creates favorable matchups for USC on the outside.

If ASU is able to get pressure rushing just four or five, it will go a long way towards a victory. USC has two players on its offensive line listed at over 350 pounds and an athletic LT in Chad Wheeler who is listed at 6-foot-7 and weights 280 pounds.

WR JuJu Smith-Schuster vs. ASU Defensive Backs: Pro Football Focus had a great write-up on the matchup between Smith-Schuster and ASU cornerback Lloyd Carrington. Smith-Schuster can get open in a variety of ways and is very dangerous in open space.

Carrington and Kweishi Brown haven't been tested too much the last two weeks and containing the explosive USC sophomore is a priority on Saturday night. Tackling in open space will also be important, no matter who has the ball.

Final Breakdown

This is a key early season matchup between two teams that have underwhelmed in 2015. USC was seen as a Playoff contender, until they stepped up their competition and fell to Stanford. ASU has faced one Power 5 team and was beaten by three touchdowns.

Even though it's late September, this has also become a must-win for USC, as the Trojans cannot afford to go 0-2 in conference play with games remaining against Oregon, UCLA, Arizona, Utah and Cal.

This game may come down to big plays. Can ASU stop the explosiveness of USC (think Christian Kirk bubble screen in Week 1) and can the Sun Devils gain some explosiveness of their own?

Besides that, USC iappears more talented on paper, boasting better weapons on offense and more speed on defense. ASU's best chance may be to wear the USC defense down with its tempo and win a track meet in the fourth quarter.

Prediction: USC 38, ASU 27