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ASU Football Opponent Primer: USC Trojans

USC lost a lot of talent, which gives ASU hope against the Trojans in 2017

Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual - USC v Penn State Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Arizona State 2017 Schedule

New Mexico State (Aug. 31) — Read

San Diego State (Sept. 9) — Read

At Texas Tech (Sept. 16) — Read

Oregon (Sept. 23) — Read

At Stanford (Sept. 30) — Read

Washington (Oct. 14) — Read

At Utah (Oct. 21) - Read

USC (Oct. 28)

Colorado (Nov. 4)

At UCLA (Nov. 11)

At Oregon State (Nov. 18)

Arizona (Nov. 25)

USC’s 2016 Season

The 2016 USC Trojans had a proficient season led by quarterback Sam Darnold and receivers Adoree Jackson and Juju Smith-Schuster. The Trojans got off to a rough start to their season with a 52-6 loss to Alabama, but managed to regroup and finished the season ranked No. 3. The Trojans finished the season 9-3 and their big victories were against then No. 21 Colorado, No. 4 Washington, Notre Dame and in the Rose Bowl against No. 5 Penn State.

Key Returners

QB Sam Darnold – After not getting much playing time in the first three games last season, Darnold won the starting job heading into Week 4 against Utah. He had a solid season as a true freshman, passing for 3,086 yards, 31 touchdowns and nine interceptions according to ESPN. There has been a lot of hype surrounding in Darnold this offseason, but the question is will he be able to live up to all of it?

RB Ronald Jones II — Jones was one of the unsung heroes on last year’s USC offense since most of the attention was on Darnold, Jackson, and Smith-Schuster. Although USC had a lot of weapons in the passing game, Jones still had productive season as he rushed for 1082 yards and 12 touchdowns and averaged 6.1 yards per carry, and caught 11 passes for 76 yards and one touchdown according to ESPN.

CB Iman Marshall – Heading into his Junior year, Marshall will be one of the leaders in this secondary that had its fair share of problems in 2016. The Trojans took a big hit to their secondary when Jackson left for the NFL draft, but Marshall will help fill that gap that Jackson left not only on defense but on special teams as well. Marshall finished the 2016 season with 51 total tackles (37 solo) and three interceptions, according to ESPN.

Biggest Losses

CB/WR/PR/KR Adoree Jackson — Jackson was the jack-of-all-trades and it seemed like he never left the field. It will be a tall task to replace him considering he was an impact player in every aspect of a game. Jackson had a remarkable year with five interceptions, 55 tackles (46 solo), two tackles for loss, 51 rushing yards, 76 receiving yards and one touchdown, returned 13 punts for 315 yards and two touchdowns, and returned 26 kickoffs for 767 yards and two touchdowns according to

WR Juju Smith-Schuster — It is almost impossible to replace a receiver like Smith-Schuster, but the Trojans will have to do what they can to fill that gap in the passing game. Smith-Schuster was one of those receivers that you could just throw the ball up to and let him go get it because of his size and ability to out-muscle cornerbacks. Smith-Schuster finished the 2016 season with 914 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns and rushed for 27 yards on five carries.

Reasons for optimism

If the Sun Devils can take advantage of USC’s lack of depth at wide receiver or at least hold Darnold to under three passing touchdowns then ASU will have a chance. USC’s weaknesses heading into the 2017 season are the fact that there isn’t a definitive top target for Darnold, the pass rush isn’t something opposing coaches will lose sleep over, and the return game is going to take a hit since Jackson left, and if Darnold doesn’t live up to all the hype then USC will have a very rough season. ASU will need to keep close tabs on USC because this is a game that Sun Devils could possibly steal from the Trojans if they play their cards right.

Reasons for pessimism

Darnold had a good season in 2016, and even though there isn’t a proven No. 1 receiver yet, the Trojans are going to pass the ball a lot and will eventually find their top target. Also, USC is entering 2017 on a nine-game winning streak and will have a fairly easy first game against Western Michigan to spark even more momentum. If ASU isn’t able to take advantage of USC’s weaknesses then it will be a very long game for the Sun Devils.