Rice: An Early Look ASU’s Opener vs. USC

The game figures to be closer than the oddsmakers seem to believe

Posted on October 26, 2020

Wills Rice
  By Wills Rice of Dash Sports TV for SportsPac12

The talk around the conference has been that when the Pac-12 returns to play on November 7th the ASU vs. USC game this could be one of the better games of the season.

Las Vegas and ESPN do not think so. 

usc logoThe Vegas line opened with the Trojans as an 11-point favorite, and ESPN FPI gives USC an 87.1% chance of winning the game.


To some, this seems preposterous, especially considering it was a 5-point contest last season, and given that ASU played without its starting quarterback. On top of which, the Sun Devils have won two of the last three in the Coliseum.

On paper, not a lot separates these teams.  The Trojans and Devils could have the first- and second-best quarterbacks in the Conference in Kedon Slovis and Jayden Daniels.

Slovis threw for 3,502 yards and 30 touchdowns with a 71.9% completion rate and nine interceptions. Daniels threw for 2,943 and 17 touchdowns with 60.7% rate and 2 interceptions.


Both teams have star wide receivers in USC’s Amon-Ra St. Brown and ASU’s Frank Darby.  Interestingly enough, both teams also lost their #1 wideouts to the NFL draft, and are looking to replace major production on offense.

Both defenses have talent and athleticism all over the field, but have a lot to prove.

ASU’s defense was rolling on all cylinders in their bowl game against Florida State. Although this was nearly a year ago, ASU returns almost all impact players on the defensive side of the ball. 

USC’s defense offers a different challenge.  The Trojans accumulated just nine interceptions and seven fumbles, resulting in a turnover ratio of negative-10.


If the Sun Devils are to have any shot in this game, they can not allow Slovis to sit in the pocket and be comfortable.  Slovis has shown himself worthy of being someone’s NFL franchise quarterback.

Nonetheless, as a true freshman, Slovis showed that pressure can get to him, and has the ability to alter his confidence. Against Oregon last year, Slovis threw three touchdowns but with just as many interceptions, contributing to a 56-24 USC loss.

ASU returns nine of its eleven leading tacklers from last season, which could be the difference early in the year, particularly in this game.

Expectations are high for the ASU offense, but it would be unreasonable to expect the Sun Devils to replace one of the best running backs in program history, as well a First-Round Draft pick at receiver in the first game. 

Daniels and ASU’s pro-model offensive minds will grow the young talent at running back and receiver, but the Devil defense will be the difference in the season opener.


The Sun Devils will be unveiling new Offensive Coordinator Zak Hill, and head coach Herm Edwards is high on his approach.

Zak is very well versed in offensive football,” Edwards said.  “He comes from winning programs and he played the quarterback position. I like that.  He’s good at building an offense around the personnel that he has available to him. He will force the defense to adjust with multiple formations and personnel groups.”

If he can do that against the Trojans, the Sun Devils might just prove the Vegas bookies and ESPN wrong.

You can watch Rice’s Devil Dash Sports Talk Show on Dash Sports TV, and read his other sports stories and columns at Cronkite Sports.

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