Before each game this USC football season, Annenberg Media’s sports staff will make prop predictions and pick a winner. Read on to see our editors’ picks for Week 10 against Arizona State.
The only thing preventing me from predicting a total bloodbath is the fact that Arizona State has lost each of its last two games by multiple touchdowns, and the last one came against a subpar Washington State team at home. But the loss of junior receiver Drake London is something that I simply cannot see the Trojans overcoming, especially with a dual-quarterback system that should probably be fired into the sun. On top of that, USC’s defense was hardly encouraging last week, surrendering 27 points to an awful Arizona team that had only scored 19 in a game all season. Do I see that turning around — particularly against the type of rushing-oriented offense that USC hasn’t really been able to handle this season? No, inquisitive reader, I do not. Put simply: USC’s offense is looking bleak, and the defense stinks. Other than that, though, everything is fine.
— Nathan Ackerman
Head coach Donte Williams was mum throughout the week about how the snaps will be distributed among Kedon Slovis and Jaxson Dart. Slovis barely edged out Dart in terms of passing attempts — 21 to 18 — and completions — 15 to 12 — against Arizona last Saturday. Slovis will continue to be the starter in the dual-quarterback system for USC, and I see him taking a majority of the snaps against Arizona State. He had 95 more yards than Dart against the Wildcats, including a 62-yard touchdown pass to Gary Bryant Jr., in just three more completions. ASU’s defense returns all 11 starters and is currently second in the Pac-12 in yards and points allowed per game. The ability to push the ball down the field will be critical for USC — and Slovis has the better chance of doing so.
This is also a homecoming game for Slovis. I’m going to skip over, for the most part, last season’s game against the Sun Devils (in which Slovis still threw for 381 yards in 40 completions) because of the peculiarities COVID caused. Looking back to the Trojans’ last trip to Tempe, Slovis threw for 432 yards and four touchdowns. He should go into this game with extra motivation, and Williams will utilize his three-year experience to help the Trojans battle the Sun Devils.
— Ava Brand
Without Drake London, the USC wide receiving core will have to rely on someone stepping up, especially with Arizona State having one of the best secondaries in the Pac-12, ranking in the top five in interceptions and passing yards per game. The receiver to step up is going to be Gary Bryant Jr. Bryant Jr. has over 80 yards receiving in two of his last three games and has shown big play potential with multiple touchdowns of 30-plus yards this season. He’s caught one such touchdown from both Kedon Slovis and Jaxson Dart, meaning regardless of who is behind center, they know they can make a big play with Bryant Jr.
— L.J. Dow
USC has not been a good third-quarter team, particularly in games that it’s lost. The Trojans have been outscored 49-3 in the third across their four losses, turning manageable halftime deficits to games that are out of reach.
This game could be different, though. Arizona State has lost by multiple scores the last two weeks, and they could have trouble building a lead against the Trojans. And USC has another quarterback option in Jaxson Dart who they could sub in if the team is struggling. I still think USC will be coming from behind in the fourth quarter, but it should be close after three.
— Amanda Sturges