One thing to watch:
Can the Trojans' pass rush defuse Steven Threet? We're going to dispense with the "five things to watch" format because this week's key is so defined. For the Trojans to take care of business at home on Saturday night, the opposing quarterback must go down and he must go down hard.
The opportunity is right in front of the USC defensive line, which has failed to produce the steady pass rush coaches had hoped for this season. According to defensive tackle Jurrell Casey, every member of the line is expecting at least one sack this week.
That's not ambitious, but not so far-fetched when you consider that ASU quarterbacks have been sacked 19 times this year. Threet is not particularly nimble and the ASU offense calls for a lot of deep passes and uses five-step drops, meaning he'll be holding the ball longer than most QBs nowadays. Coach Dennis Erickson has long been enamored of a vertical passing game.
"He holds the ball a little too long," USC defensive end Nick Perry said. "That's as much time as we need to go get the quarterback."
According to defensive line coach Ed Orgeron, the unit is coming along slowly, but steadily. Orgeron said Casey has been consistently excellent, Perry has shown flashes of brilliance when he's healthy and Armond Armstead is gradually learning a new position. Wes Horton has contributed more than many people expected.
The good news for USC is that Perry, the most physically gifted pass rusher, said he is finally 100 percent after being limited for the first eight games by a high ankle sprain. He'll lead a unit that is on the spot this week.
"If we can cover them and make him hold the ball or if we get a great rush so he can't get rid of the ball, we could make the game very difficult," coach Lane Kiffin said. "That's something we've not done a great job of this season."