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Trojans would rather that Arizona State didn't show its good side

The Sun Devils, who play at the Coliseum on Saturday, have been turnover-prone on offense. But their defense has been ferocious, and they've come close to beating quality opponents such as Wisconsin and Oregon State, indicating they're better than their 4-4 record.

November 01, 2010|By Gary Klein

USC knew what it was facing, however unorthodox, before the Trojans played top-ranked Oregon.

Arizona State might be more mainstream, but also perhaps more unpredictable.

As in: Which Sun Devils team will show up Saturday night at the Coliseum?

Arizona State is 4-4 overall and 2-3 in the Pacific 10 Conference. The Sun Devils defeated Washington and Washington State, and lost to Oregon, Oregon State and California in conference play.

Still, Arizona State, under fourth-year Coach Dennis Erickson, seems better than its record indicates.

This is a team that lost to No. 7 Wisconsin, 20-19, at Madison, Wis.

Arizona State lost by three points, 31-28, at Oregon State.

The Sun Devils lost to Oregon, 42-31, an outcome that might have been different if they had not committed seven turnovers.

Now, after rebounding from a head-scratching 50-17 loss at California with a 42-0 rout of Washington State, Arizona State will try to beat USC for the first time since 1999.

"Our goal is to go to a bowl game and we don't have much room for error," Erickson said Monday.

Mistakes in the form of turnovers have proved costly for the Sun Devils, who are 107th among 120 major college teams in turnover margin. Quarterback Steven Threet has passed for 14 touchdowns but has had 13 passes intercepted.

The 6-foot-5, 240-pound Threet has been on the move since graduating early from Adrian High in Michigan.

He enrolled at Georgia Tech in January 2007, participated in spring practice and then transferred to Michigan. He started eight games for the Wolverines in 2008 and then sat out last season after transferring to Arizona State.

Last week, he completed 26 of 32 passes for 300 yards and three touchdowns against Washington State.

Arizona State's defense is led by sophomore middle linebacker Vontaze Burfict, a former Corona Centennial High star who made a commitment to USC before signing with the Sun Devils.

"When he wants to turn it on, he just dominates the game," Kiffin said. "I wish he was here."

Freshman end Junior Onyeali was selected Pac-10 defensive player of the week after getting three sacks against Washington State.

The Sun Devils are tied for seventh nationally with 63 tackles for losses, including 16 sacks.

"They pressure the quarterback all game long," Washington State Coach Paul Wulff said. "There is somebody in his face and the quarterback very seldom gets to set his feet and throw the ball. There is something that disturbs the pocket nonstop. When they know it's a pass they will sack you."

Here's the deal . . . again

Stanford Coach Jim Harbaugh apparently just can't get USC, former coach Pete Carroll and Carroll's coaching tree out of his mind.

After Stanford dominated Washington, 41-0, last week, Bud Withers of the Seattle Times reported that Harbaugh referred to Carroll, Kiffin, Washington Coach Steve Sarkisian and Washington defensive coordinator Nick Holt, saying to his players, "What are you guys, 5-1, 6-1 against that group [in his four-year tenure]? That's the highest-paid coaching staff around!"

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