After having its second bye of the season last weekend, Arizona State (5-3, 2-3 Pac-12) will be back inside Sun Devil Stadium for a much needed home game against USC (5-4, 4-2 Pac-12) on Saturday afternoon.
The Devils’ last two games have both been on the road, and both games have resulted in ASU coming up short. The Trojans meanwhile, come into Tempe after losing last Saturday at home for the first time this season.
The No. 7 Oregon Ducks defeated USC by 32 points, winning 56-24. After narrowly escaping the Coliseum with a victory in 2018 (a star-studded performance by N’Keal Harry made this possible), Arizona State now tries to make it two in a row against the Trojans. These are the USC players to watch closely:
Senior wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. — The best receiver on a roster full of talent at the wideout position, Pittman has made the most out of his senior season up to this point.
He leads the team in both reception yards and touchdowns (792 YDS, 8 TD), and these numbers also place Pittman in the top-five among Pac-12 receivers. The senior has also caught at least one touchdown pass in three straight games.
At 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, Pittman is a nightmare for cornerbacks and defensive coordinators alike. In last year’s game, he caught six passes for 90 yards and two scores. He will look to dominate in a similar manner Saturday afternoon.
Junior wide receiver Tyler Vaughns — Just like Pittman, Vaughns also places top-five in the Pac-12 for reception yards. He has 713 on the year. His five touchdown receptions trail only Pittman’s eight for the most on the team.
Out of everybody suiting up for the Trojans this weekend, Vaughns should be the most excited by far. As a redshirt freshman in 2017, and current New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold under center, he hauled in six passes for 126 yards and two scores in USC’s game against ASU.
Last year, Vaughns caught a pass for a touchdown, threw a pass for a touchdown, and returned a punt for a touchdown. There is proof of this on YouTube. The speedy junior receiver should be in his comfort zone on Saturday.
Senior linebacker John Houston Jr. — The senior comes into this weekend’s game leading the team with 79 total tackles. Additionally, Houston’s 8.8 tackles per game are fifth-best in the conference.
The Trojans have 24 sacks as a team, and Houston has contributed in that area on defense as well. He has 2.5 sacks going into Saturday, one shy of the team lead held by Drake Jackson and Jay Tufele.