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Trojans try to reboot themselves at Arizona State

USC, coming off a devastating loss at Oregon, will try to get back on track against the aggressive Sun Devils at Tempe, Ariz., on Saturday.

November 07, 2009

NO. 12 USC (6-2, 3-2) VS.

ARIZONA STATE (4-4, 2-3)

Today at Sun Devil Stadium,

5 p.m. , Channel 7

USC tries to rebound after its humiliating defeat at Oregon, its worst loss in Coach Pete Carroll's nine seasons. Arizona State would like nothing more than to make it two weeks of misery for the seven-time defending Pacific 10 Conference champions. Times staff writer Gary Klein looks at some of the game's key issues and matchups:

Passed tense

USC Coach Pete Carroll and quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates raved about quarterback Matt Barkley's performance against Oregon, but the praise seemed over the top.

Though Barkley did not turn the ball over until his final pass was intercepted, the freshman was far from stellar. He uncharacteristically underthrew one receiver. He also overthrew another for what could have been a touchdown. He completed only five of 16 second-half passes.

Barkley, who has passed for nine touchdowns with six interceptions, now faces the Pac-10's top-ranked defense, an aggressive unit that has a conference-best 13 interceptions.

Meantime, USC's defense breathes a sigh of relief. Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli is in Palo Alto to play Stanford and can no longer torment the Trojans -- until next season, perhaps.

Arizona State quarterback Danny Sullivan is neither as efficient as Oregon State's Sean Canfield nor as mobile as Masoli. He has completed 54% of his passes with eight touchdowns and seven interceptions. Samson Szakacsy, who at one time committed to USC, is more mobile and could be utilized in goal-line situations as he was last week against California.

USC has made only three interceptions, none in its last three games.

Desert run

USC tailbacks Joe McKnight and Allen Bradford returned from Oregon with sore knees but were practicing at full speed by Thursday.

McKnight has averaged 89 yards rushing, Bradford 43. The Trojans need one or both to be effective against an Arizona State defense that ranks fourth nationally against the run.

Sun Devils running back Dimitri Nance averages 4.3 yards a carry and has five touchdowns. He'll be running against a Trojans front seven eager to redeem itself after giving up 391 yards rushing at Oregon.

Watch out for Williams

Anthony McCoy remains sidelined because of a sprained ankle and fullback Stanley Havili is still nursing a sore shoulder, so wide receiver Damian Williams will be vital for the Trojans as a pass catcher and punt returner.

Williams has 43 receptions and four touchdowns in eight games.

Arizona State's Kyle Williams has caught 37 passes, three for touchdowns, in seven games. Chris McGaha of the Sun Devils has 39 catches and three touchdowns in eight games.

Showcase position

USC's linebackers are still smarting, physically and emotionally, from the Oregon nightmare.

Middle linebacker Chris Galippo is fully recovered from a sprained neck, but Malcolm Smith is not on the trip because of a shoulder injury. Shane Horton starts on the weak side with Michael Morgan on the strong side.

Arizona State's linebackers have been wreaking havoc, especially freshman Vontaze Burfict, the former Corona Centennial High star who originally committed to USC.

He is second on the team in tackles. Senior linebacker Mike Nixon is first.

Opportunity knocks

USC converted a recovered fumble into a touchdown against Oregon, but the Trojans remain in a struggle to force and capitalize on mistakes.

USC has a minus-three turnover margin, tied for last in the Pac-10.

Arizona State ranks second in the conference at plus-four. The Sun Devils have recovered eight fumbles.

Safeties Ryan McFoy and Jarrell Holman and linebacker Nixon have three interceptions each. McFoy, a senior, is the brother of former Trojans receiver Chris McFoy.

Flag waving

Arizona State's aggressive approach has helped make the Sun Devils the most penalized team in the Pac-10. The Sun Devils average 9.2 infractions and 89.2 penalty yards a game.

USC averages 7.2 and 63.4.

By the numbers

*--* USC CATEGORY ASU 30.0 Scoring 26.0 19.1 Points given up 19.0 235.3 Passing offense 221.9 191.0 Rushing offense 132.8 426.3 Total offense 354.6 213.1 Passing defense 215.9 118.8 Rushing defense 80.1 331.8 Total defense 296.0 *--*


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