The Arizona State Sun Devils (4-3, 3-1 Pac-12) are officially rolling. With two straight wins over quality opponents (including then-No. 5 Washington), ASU has started to turn around what was beginning to look like another ugly season. Now the Sun Devils face another test in No. 21 USC during this season’s homecoming matchup.
USC came into the season ranked No. 4 in the AP poll, but has plummeted down the rankings after losses to Washington State and Notre Dame. To be fair, both those losses came on the road and both opponents were ranked inside the top 20 when they faced USC. The Trojans just simply haven’t been as dominant as many projected they would be, with struggles on both sides of the ball preventing USC from recapturing the glory days of the early 2000’s; however, they are still a tremendously talented team and will be an extremely difficult matchup for ASU.
Here are some things to watch out for from the Trojans.
Next Big Thing? Maybe Not…
Sam Darnold couldn’t have entered this season with more hype. The sophomore quarterback was projected as a Heisman contender and potential No. 1 overall NFL draft pick, but so far has not quite lived up to those lofty expectations. Darnold has 17 touchdowns and 10 interceptions so far this season, which is already one more interception than he had all last year. His quarterback rating is down almost 20 points and his yards per passing attempt and completion percentage are lower than last season as well.
The biggest issues for Darnold have been decision-making and turnovers. Darnold has 17 turnovers through eight games and ranks in the top three for both interceptions and fumbles given up. While he has thrown for over 2,000 yards, much of that is out necessity with USC playing from behind in tight games throughout the season.
While Darnold has struggled at times this season, he is still one of the most talented quarterbacks in the country and ASU’s secondary will attempt to have a third straight impressive week.
Keeping Up with the Jones’s
USC’s defense is always littered with talented, NFL prospects, but one unlikely player making a lot of waves for the Trojans this year is redshirt junior Jalen Jones. The defensive back has four interceptions and five passes deflected through eight games, good for fifth nationally and second in the Pac-12 respectively. Those are pretty fantastic numbers for a player who started as a reserve walk-on cornerback his freshman year.
USC has struggled at times on defense this year but players like Jones make the Trojans so dangerous, especially to a team like ASU who has had issues at times scoring this season.
The game will be Saturday at 7:45 p.m. P.S.T on ESPN.