• John Skinner

Inside dirt heading into Arizona State

The Urban Myth- The amount of mis-information spread as “factual” by some journalist and supposed credible sources in Trojan fan chat rooms is alarming. Has anyone spoken directly to Urban Meyer or his representatives that he would even be interested in the USC coaching job? From the University perspective, fans have to understand the new administration is focused on moving past unfortunate scandals that have had international ramifications and this type of hire would invite national media scrutiny, fair or not. Ultimately, it probably isn’t a fit from both sides of the aisle.

Last week’s debacle- Momentum is a crazy thing. The Trojans had a chance to seize it in the second quarter by taking a two score lead while inside the Oregon 10 yard line but a critical Kedon Slovis turnover flipped it to Oregon. Despite following behind by two scored after that, the Trojans scored near the end of the half to cut the lead to four and seemed to grab the momentum back before heading into halftime. However, this time, the coaches made a turnover by kicking the ball off to Oregon allowing the Ducks the opportunity to run it back and fatally seal the Trojans fate. Essentially, the Trojans had five turnovers (4 on the field and 1 by the coaches) and continued to struggle in the red zone. A recipe for disaster against a top-10 team.

Last week Part II- Though the final score of 56-24 is ugly, should the Trojans somehow win their remaining three games, coupled with a Utah loss, SC would have a legitimate shot of beating Oregon in the Pac-12 championship game, especially with a healthier roster and more options at running back. Kenan Christon is doing a great job (especially pass blocking), but the lack of a power back and the ability to use multiple backs in this offense is very noticeable…especially in the red zone.

Speaking of Red Zone- One of the biggest criticisms of the Air-Raid offense is they often struggle in red zone situations, specifically short yardage, near the goal line. The Trojans rank near the bottom in the conference in red zone efficiency and that is unacceptable with a roster this talented. This needs to start reversing ASAP to finish the season strong or the Air-Raid offense might just have a one-year cup of coffee in the Cardinal and Gold.

Expect the Trojans to bounce back- Though it was an ugly second half vs. Oregon and rumors are swirling about the future of Clay Helton, the team appears determined to finish the season strong and though the chances are remote, they do have an outside shot at a Pac-12 championship. Do not expect a repeat of last season. The injury issues the Trojans have been dealing with this year cannot be overstated and they are starting to get healthier. The upgrade in coaching staff over last season will also make a difference.

Speaking of injuries- Coliseum turf having a tough time- With the Rams and Trojans both occupying the Coliseum, the turf is taking a beating. In the last few home games, we have seen players lose their footing despite weather not being a factor and some wonder if it has contributed to the injury issues the Trojans have faced. The good news is this will be the last season of dual occupancy with the Rams headed to Inglewood next season.

Jackson and Hufanga set to return- Two of the Trojans best defensive players are set to return against ASU. They have been sorely missed the last few weeks and should make an immediate impact this week.

ASU QB Daniels could be out- It has been rumored that stud freshman ASU QB Jayden Daniels may not play. Though Daniels makes some freshman mistakes at times, he has been able to guide ASU on multiple game-winning drives and is very effective with his legs (273 rushing yards- 2 game winning TD’s) when plays breakdown. SC has struggled containing an elusive QB. Without Daniels, ASU will go with another true freshman Joey Yellen who has only taken one snap this year.

Keys to a Trojan victory- Regardless of the ASU QB situation, the Trojans need to defend the run well and contain ASU RB Eno Benjamin. Last year, Benjamin ran for 185 yards in the Sun Devils victory in the Coliseum. Trojan QB Kedon Slovis will need to bounce back with a clean game and the SC offense has to convert in the red zone. Finally, the coaching staff needs to have a solid game plan to execute as ASU’s Herm Edwards and staff are coming off a bye week and do a very good job prepping the Sun Devils, especially defensively.

Get Hoops season tickets now…you will be glad you did especially come 2020-2021 season- More on this next week but the men’s basketball team is off to a 2-0 start while also holding victories over Villanova (minus two starters) and St. Mary’s in scrimmages. The coaching staff did a tremendous job of not only brining in a top 10 nationally rated recruiting class in terms of talent but they were able to get high character players with championship backgrounds that embrace playing defense. One of the biggest issues in the Enfield era has been consistent effort on the defensive end of the floor and that appears to be addressed in a big way. When you combine this with what could be another top 10 recruiting class of high talent/high character players, it is not stretch to say the Trojans could be a legit top 10 team next year. Thus, invest in season tickets now. You will get to watch a NCAA tourney level team in a much more competitive Pac-12 (5/6 teams should make tourney) and then set yourself up to have good seats for what could be a magical year in 2020-2021.

Betting Guide- The Trojans opened as 1.5 point favorites and some books have the spread at 2.5. The Trojans are 4-5 ATS while the Sun Devils are 3-5 ATS. The over/under is 55.5 with 62% of the money currently being bet on the over. ASU is 1-3 at home ATS and the Trojans are 1-3 ATS on the road. Though the public is betting the over, the under looks like a solid play.

Extensive Game Preview- Check out Tom Haire’s extensive game preview via trojanfootball.com.

Carol Skinner Memorial Tid-Bits-

*Leading Trojans WR Michael Pittman injured his ankle vs. Oregon and is questionable for today’s game.

*USC true freshman forward Onyeka Okongwu almost had a triple double in the Trojans first game. He also tied the Trojans record for most blocks in a game. He did this in only 26 minutes of action. He followed that up with 20 points and 10 rebounds in Friday night’s victory over Portland. Like I stated when he signed with USC, he should have been a McDonald’s All-American and will challenge for Pac-12 freshman of the year honors.

*Look for the Trojans to continue to run some fly sweeps to WR to help bolster the running game.

*True freshman WR Drake London has had three straight games with four or more catches and at least 50 yards receiving which is pretty impressive considering the amount of experienced talent the Trojans possess at the position.

*After nine games last season, the Trojans were also 5-4.