Following their third straight defeat of the season under their second head coach of the season, the Arizona State Sun Devils (1-3, 0-1 Pac-12) will take a trip down I-10 for a primetime showdown with No. 6 USC (4-0, 2-0 Pac-12). The Trojans have lived up to their massive preseason hype thus far and despite the dominant showing in Tempe by Utah last week, will be the Sun Devils’ most challenging opponent yet.
What makes these Trojans so dangerous, after years of underachieving in one of the most demanding sports markets in the country? For you NBA/Sun Devil fans out there, USC has used the traditional basketball way of roster-building, assembling the gridiron’s most daunting “Big Three,” who will tear your defense apart and make any trip to their house a deathwish.
As college football’s iteration of LeBron James and the Beatles of the early 2010s, new head coach Lincoln Riley has made his best impression of his possible long-lost relative, Pat Riley, a decade later. He comes into his rookie season as the head man at USC following years of success at powerhouse Oklahoma, including four-straight Big 12 championships (the same amount of championships Pat Riley had as a coach) and three appearances in the College Football Playoff since his hiring in 2017. But when the Riley’s cashed in on their success and took their talents elsewhere, they brought three of the sport’s best to turn a mediocre team into a contender virtually overnight.
QB Caleb Williams
The LeBron James of these Trojans is Quarterback Caleb Williams, who emerged as one of the nation’s top signal-callers as a freshman at Oklahoma. While he didn’t get the six-year, $110 million deal that “The King” received, “Superman” flew into LA with winning (and probably a few NIL deals) on his mind. Through four games in the red and gold, Williams leads one of three undefeated teams left in the Pac-12 and is one of 43 FBS quarterbacks to throw for 1,000 yards. His intelligence as a passer has taken a noticeable spike since his arrival in the city of angels. His QBR sits at 85.1 (10th best in FBS) while holding an elite 9:0 touchdown to interception ratio. Like LeBron though, Williams has made his name as one of the sport’s all-around best.
If you’ve seen highlights of the 2021 Red River Rivalry, you’ll know just how electric Caleb Williams is on his feet. His 40-time as a QB was a 4.57 in 2019 which translated to 442 rushing yards as a freshman at Oklahoma. With Williams already hitting the century mark on the ground this year despite having to run much less, his dual-threat ability is arguably the best in the country.
It may have taken LeBron James two seasons to be recognized as the NBA’s most valuable player in Miami, but with the way “the kid from D.C.” is balling under the bright lights, the Heisman Trophy could be calling Superman’s name in just a few months.
WR Jordan Addison
If they called Dwyane Wade “The Flash,” then star receiver Jordan Addison should earn the monicker of “The Maryland Missile.” The true junior out of Frederick made himself a local legend on the Potomac before joining forces with Kenny Pickett in the Steel City and helping bring Pittsburgh its first ACC championship in over a decade. While it’s certainly hard to top a campaign in which Addison won the Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s top wideout, critics said the same of Wade following his Finals MVP in 2006. Two rings and 16 years later, Addison’s game-breaking speed and devastating technique put him among the nation’s best at his position. With 337 receiving yards for six touchdowns already on the board for Addison in 2022, he could be well on his way to back-to-back Biletnikoff awards, the first since Justin Coleman in 2010-2011. Ironically, the same time when the Heat went from mediocre to the top of basketball.
With Addison in tow, the same fate could be in order for USC football.
RB Travis Dye
There were plenty of times throughout Miami’s glorious run where Chris Bosh would step up to win games for the Heat when James and Wade were neutralized. Oregon transfer Travis Dye is no stranger to picking up the slack when needed. Having rushed for six yards per game as one of the nation’s most reliable running backs in 2021, Dye was the engine of an offense that out-dueled mighty Ohio State and reached the Pac-12 Championship Game. His nearly 1300 yards of total rushing and 16 trips to the end zone as a Duck has been invaluable at USC, as his 7.3 yards per carry on 49 attempts has taken the pressure off of Williams and Addison and made this offense lethal in both aspects.
While these three Trojans are far from their main goal of the CFP, the Sun Devils will need to put on a defensive performance for the ages (see Dirk Nowitzki circa June 2011) if they are going to close the lights on Hollywood’s hottest show.