Arizona State opens its season on Saturday against USC at 9:00 am pacific time. To get a better understanding of the 20th-ranked Trojans, we asked Cam Mellor, a college football analyst for SBNation and head of Conquest Chronicles, a few questions.
Brady Vernon: How excited are you for the first Jayden Daniels and Kedon Slovis matchup?
Cam Mellor: I’m on record as saying this is not only the best quarterback matchup in the Pac-12 this season but also perhaps a top-three battle across the entire landscape of college football in terms of strictly QB vs QB.
Slovis is a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate in a normal, non-shortened season, and Daniels has all the ability to do such a thing as well.
Slovis wins all over the field and Daniels has the athletic ability to take over a game. Slovis gets the edge as a passer but Daniels is the better athlete. All this to say, I’m extremely excited for this specific QB battle.
BV: Do you think Amon-Ra St. Brown can take a major leap in his development this year?
CM: St. Brown has had his issues with a couple of things in the past, most notably a few drops. We all know he’s an incredible after-the-catch threat but the one thing that stands out in his game has been his ability to separate at the catch point.
There are few who do it better in the Pac-12, if not none that do it better than him. I expect him to make that big development and leap due to that sustainability of separation being a massive mismatch at this and the next level of football.
BV: What positional group matchups do you think decide Saturday’s outcome?
CM: Quarterback. It’s as simple as that. Slovis, in my opinion, has the advantage over any secondary he’s going to face this year and there is no more important position on the football field at any given time than quarterback.
Daniels will have to answer, at least at a conference and national level, who his next great playmakers are with him that he can find in the passing game and rely on in the run game before I could say that he has the distinct advantage over Slovis at this point.
BV: Who is one Trojan player that most people don’t generally know about that will have a major impact?
CM: It’s Tyler Vaughns. He’s felt like the forgotten man with Michael Pittman getting the lion share of the targets last year and St. Brown receiving all the preseason hype. Vaughns has every capability of being a terrific possession receiver with great contested-catch skills as well.
Vaughns is in line for the majority of the targets outside as well, and should not be discredited from having the ability to put up gaudy statistical outings in every game.
BV: Is there a Sun Devil defender that scares the Trojans?
CM: Aashari Crosswell, hands down. If there’s one thing we know, it’s that those Long Beach kids can play ball, and Crosswell is certainly one of my favorites across the defensive secondary in the conference.
I think Crosswell blossoms in year three before ultimately jettisoning for the NFL in April. He’s a guy that will absolutely get talked about by draft analysts once ASU is back on the field.