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ASU Football: Takeaways from Arizona State’s loss to No. 21 USC

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Here’s what we’ve got.

NCAA Football: Southern California at Arizona State Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

On their home turf with the top spot in the Pac-12 South at stake, the Arizona State Sun Devils were embarrassed by the USC Trojans, 48-17, on Saturday night.

Here’s what we learned from the loss:

We thought USC wasn’t “USC” type good, we were wrong

It took four weeks, but the real USC finally showed its face, possibly at its full capacity for the first time all season. Torn apart by injuries, the Trojans were smashed 49-14 against Notre Dame and barely beat a Utah team (28-27) who has now lost four straight. Dating back to their 38-10 win over Oregon State, the Trojans had eight combined turnovers. They had none on Saturday. Deontay Burnett, who is ranked No. 7 of 271 WRs in his class in the nation by nfldraftscout.com sped past Chase Lucas on a straight away go route on just the ninth play of the game for a touchdown. Ronald Jones (ranked No. 5 of 162 running backs) sauced Kobe Williams on a run, racing down the field for a 60-plus yard touchdown not once, but twice. The Trojans had 607 yards of total offense and the Sun Devils simply couldn’t stack up with USC’s talented array of all-Pac-12 skill players.

Kiss your Pac-12 championship hopes goodbye — or not

The Sun Devils had control of their own destiny, playing likely its toughest opponent of the season in a game where an ASU win would manipulate a top spot in the Pac-12 South standings. Instead, now at 4-4, 3-2 Pac-12, the Sun Devils must win out and have USC to lose twice more this season, which looks tough to believe in. Including its by week, in four more weeks this season, the Trojans play just three games and two of them are in the Los Angeles Coliseum. Next, the Trojans face the second-placed Arizona Wildcats at home. After, they face the bottom of the South: fifth-placed Colorado away and fourth-placed UCLA at home. Shall the Trojans take care of business, the Sun Devils will be on the outside looking in.

Like it or not: ASU is not Arizona’s best football team

Two straight wins over recently powerhouse programs in Utah and then No. 5-Washington had Sun Devil fans looking below the team down south and the birds up north. But Khalil Tate and his 421 yards of total offense dethroned the No. 15 Washington State Cougars on Saturday night, 58-37, for a spot just behind USC at second in the Pac-12 South. A win over USC next week would put Arizona in the driver’s seat. Yes, Arizona’s defense has given up an average of 36.6 points per game in Pac-12 play, but it doesn’t matter when Tate has averaged 395.8 yards of offense in his four winning starts this season. Until Tate can be halted, the Sun Devils stand looking up to Arizona, a game behind in the standings.

Big plays came to haunt ASU’s defense... Again

Aside from the 10 penalties ASU suffered, going just 1-for-11 on third down, and being straight outplayed by USC, the Sun Devils’ secondary who went three games straight without allowing a quarterback to throw for over 200 yards, was torched on Saturday night. USC skill players Vaughns and Burnett both embarrassed Williams and Lucas with pure talent. And Ronald Jones, who ran for 216 yards, got past the defensive line, then put moves on ASU defenders twice to gain two touchdowns in over 60-yard runs. Stanford running back Bryce Love had three rushes for over 40 yards en route to a 301-yard performance. San Diego State running back Rashaad Penny, who had 216 yads on the ground, ran for a monstrous 95-yard touchdown and returned a kick off 99 yards. In three of Arizona State’s four losses, big plays have been a major factor and it’s something the Sun Devils must limit moving forward to get back in Pac-12 title contention.