While attention has been drawn to Arizona State’s special teams and running attack woes, what could be a greater concern is how the Sun Devils have done defending the run.
Wisconsin and Stanford have combined to gash ASU for 471 yards on the ground in ASU’s last two games. While USC doesn’t have quite the same rushing attack as those two teams, they are led by sophomore Tre Madden, who’s already totaled 455 yards and a pair of scores.
The Arizona State defensive line has made it clear this week that their number one focus is on USC’s ground game and forcing the Trojans to turn to the air.
“Once we stop the run and get their quarterback to really start throwing the ball we can get them playing for us,” senior defensive tackle Will Sutton said.
Sophomore Cody Kessler is currently USC’s starting quarterback, but only after edging out sophomore Max Wittek for the job following a lackluster competition between the two. On the season, USC has thrown for four touchdowns with three interceptions. Star wideout Marqise Lee only has 293 receiving yards through four games after totaling 1,721 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2012.
The Trojans currently rank seventh in the Pac-12 in rushing offense (176.5 yards per game) and ninth in the conference in passing offense (163.5 yards per game.)
“Their weak point is their quarterback,” Sutton said. “The receivers are kind of frustrated because they can’t get the ball and make plays really.”
While they are focused on the run, Arizona State does need to keep its eye on Lee, who torched the Devils for 227 total yards and one TD in USC’s 38-17 win in Los Angeles last year.