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ASU Football: First Look at USC

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Clay Helton’s talented program will look for their first Pac-12 victory in Los Angeles on Saturday night.

NCAA Football: Southern California at Utah Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona State Sun Devils will travel to Los Angeles to take on the USC Trojans in what will be the first matchup between the two teams since USC routed the Maroon and Gold in Tempe last September. The game will be airing on FOX at 5:30 p.m. MST.

The Trojans of Southern California are coming off of a disappointing 31-27 loss to Utah in Salt Lake City last week, capped by a last second touchdown pass from Troy Williams to Tim Patrick to put the Utes up with 16 seconds remaining.

This moved the Trojans to 1-3 on the season, with an 0-2 record in conference play.

USC has struggled early on due to what some consider the most difficult schedule in the country, but this is still a program loaded with incredible talent and the best recruits the West Coast has to offer.

Here’s what you need to know about the Trojans.

Good JuJu

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. This weekend, a reeling Sun Devils secondary will be facing an all-conference, elite wide receiver. Although Cal WR Chad Hansen has the numbers, and certainly, the game tape to make his argument, USC receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster will be the best offensive player ASU will face all season.

The 6-foot-2, 220 pound former five-star recruit has exploded for 2,375 yards and 17 touchdowns in his career in Southern California, but it’s not his stats that should have Sun Devil cornerbacks Armand Perry and Kareem Orr on their heels. Scouts have described his build much like Arizona Cardinals WR Michael Floyd, in that he plays very physical football on and off the ball, and relies on a muscular build to make tough catches in traffic. If USC is to finally find a rhythm in its passing game, it will be in the hands of JuJu Smith Schuster.

Recruiting Dominance

Over the last five years, USC has attained the third-best recruiting class ranking in the country, trailing only the Crimson Tide of Alabama and the Buckeyes of Ohio State. Key commitments like cornerback Adoree’ Jackson and receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster in the past have lead to sustained success in recent years. While the Trojans have struggled out of the gate this year and have only been to one Pac-12 title game, the same number as ASU, in the last five years, USC is loaded with top-tier talent all over the field, always posing a dangerous threat on both sides of the ball.

Key Players

CB Adoree’ Jackson

The 5-foot-11, 185 pound defensive back/receiver may very well be the best athlete in the country. Jackson is a very rare three-way player that can not only play in all three phases of the game, he excels. On defense he is an All Pac-12 cornerback, many analysts believe that if he played receiver full time he would be one of the best in the country, and of course he is electric on special teams.

Last year, Jackson returned two punts for touchdowns for the Trojans, and in the opening game of the season this year took one to the house on a kickoff against Alabama. If all that wasn’t enough, the Belleville, Illinois native made a bid for a spot on the 2016 U.S. Olympic Track and Field Team, and has his sights set on Tokyo in 2020.

QB Sam Darnold

Many of the Trojans’ struggles thus far have stemmed from inconsistent quarterback play, but offensive coordinator Tee Martin’s unit may have found a solution against Utah. The redshirt freshman looked impressive against Utah, going 18/26 with 253 yards rushing, and added 41 more yards on the ground. His presence in the pocket, mobility, and ability to activate his talented receivers in Smith-Schuster and Darreus Rogers was a welcome sight for Trojans fans.

OLB Porter Gustin

It’s no secret that the Sun Devil offense has been firing on all cylinders this season. If ASU is going to be successful in the air and between the tackles for a fifth straight game, it’s going to start with the Devils’ ability to contain USC’s 6-foot-5, 250 pound sophomore in the middle of the defense. After leading the Trojans with 5.5 sacks last season and seven tackles for loss, Gustin has burst into the forefront of his unit with two sacks and 4.5 tackles for loss through four games. Limiting the former No. 4 OLB recruit in the country’s ability to challenge the offensive line will be crucial in the Sun Devil’s success establishing a rhythm on offense.