• John Skinner

2016 Arizona State Preview

Darnold is the real deal: QB Sam Darnold has the swagger and presence that SC has not had at the QB position since Leinart and Palmer.  This isn’t just about one game.  Scouts and practice observers have felt he is going to be special since last spring.  His abilities could end up leading SC on a nice mid-season win streak…one of the reasons that SC has jumped to a 10 point favorite over undefeated Arizona State is due to what he brings to the offense.  As long as he stays healthy, expect him to be a legitimate Heisman candidate next season and will be the reason you should get to the coliseum and watch the Trojans even if it is a .500 level season.

Despite the Utah game being his first start, SC averaged 7.9 yards per play, which is the most it has averaged against a Power 5 opponent since a 44-17 victory against Washington State in 2014.

Coaching staff knows the ASU game is a must-win:  Simply put, as a 10 point favorite at home, SC needs this victory to achieve a .500 or better record which would probably by the coaching staff another season to turn things around.  One staff member stated “Winning is the only option if we want to be coaching here next season”

Rumblings about Helton and a buy-out if things don’t’ turn around:  I have heard from a very reliable source that the prominent booster who played a major factor in the hiring of Lynn Swann as Athletic Director is concerned that Helton is not right man to lead SC.  This same booster is a fan of Helton and didn’t object to his hire but he also was not involved in the process of hiring him.  This booster is very tight with Lynn Swann and wants to make sure Lynn is given every opportunity to succeed.  Should SC continue to falter and not show signs of stabilizing, this booster is prepared to provide money to help buy-out Helton and his staff members after the season.  Helton has a three year guarantee and coordinators have two year contracts.

Swann is very confident that given the opportunity he will help attract a top tier coach.  He has the swagger and confidence to pull it off…However, Swann is still fully supporting Helton and would like to and it would probably take a sub .500 record for SC to not give him a second year.  Remember, he inherited an absolute mess and it took three years for Peterson to turn around Sark’s mess at Washington.

Keep this in mind regarding Helton: When you hear people calling for Helton to be fired within one year of being hired, remember a few things.  *SC is not defined by its football program and more concerned about its overall university ranking and building a multi-billion dollar endowment. *The administration is well aware that SC has played one of the toughest schedules in the country and will give Helton time to get things stabilized. *Helton is well-liked and he will have to continue to make questionable in-game coaching decisions to fall out of favor. *Boosters will have to step up and help take care of any buy-out for Helton and his staff.  SC does not like to waste money in paying coaches who are not coaching for them and this would be three straight…

Sophomores Cameron Smith and Porter Gustin lone bright spots on defense:  LB Cameron Smith leads the Pac-12 in solo tackles and ranks in the top 10 nationally.  Porter Gustin is tied for fourth in the conference for solo tackles.  Smith and Gustin make up 27% of SC’s total tackles!

Sam Darnold and Ju Ju Smith Schuster should have monster games on Saturday: ASU’s pass defense is atrocious and ranks as one of the worst in the country. They have given up 14 passing TD’s, allowed 16 first down passed per game and 404 passing yards per game.  Darnold averaged 14.4 yards per pass completion against a solid Utah defense and was in a good rhythm with Smith Schuster.  Expect more of the same in this must win game for the Trojans.

ASU is dangerous late in games and in the red zone:  Arizona State averages 21.7 points per game in the 4th quarter! No lead is safe. . .especially since SC only averages 6.7 points per game in the second half.

ASU is a perfect 18/18 in scoring inside their opponent’s 20-yard line.  SC is 11/13 and the teams are tied for ninth in the conference in red zone defense.

Carol Skinner Memorial Tid-Bits:

*The combined record of SC’s first five opponents is 17-2.

*SC is 4-0 in the coliseum under Clay Helton.

*QB Sam Darnold had a great week of practice and was more comfortable as a team leader after the start at Utah.

*ASU has the best run defense in the country and the worst pass defense.

*ASU QB Manny Wilkins has the second-most rush yards of any QB in the Pac-12.

*SC’s defense has been on the field for 271 plays this season- Tied for 6th most in the country.

*SC ranks 102nd nationally in team sacks…expect more blitz packages against ASU.

*A loss to ASU would put USC at 0-3 in the Pac-12 for just the fourth time in school history.

*SC’s past five recruiting classes averaged as the 6th best in the nation…yet they are 1-3 and some assistant coaches are complaining about depth problems…hmmm…

*SC was represented by 44 Olympians at Rio 2015, and 17 of those Trojans will be honored at halftime of the ASU game.

*SC ranks 15th nationally in the Wall Street Journal Survey of more than 1,000 U.S colleges and universities.  UCLA placed 26th and UC Berkeley was 37th.  The new ranking uses a set of comprehensive metrics to determine whether a college offers students sufficient resources to succeed, whether students feel challenged and engaged, whether the student body is diverse and international and whether graduates succeed by paying off their loans and are able to find satisfying, high paying jobs.