Conference title hopes and division crown at stake for Trojans

The road to the Pac-12 Conference South Division title just got a bit more difficult for the USC Trojans after they dropped a 41-28 road game to Utah. Now the Trojans have in from of them a hungry Arizona State football squad, badly in need of a win as they need one. Arizona State, under head coach Herm Edwards, has dropped four of their last five games, adding a level of desperation to the Sun Devils’ quest to upset the Trojans.

With two losses in division play, the Trojans cannot afford to lose another game if they hope to claim the South Division. Another loss would undeniably put USC behind the eight-ball in that regards.

USC left Utah battered and bruised, not just from a mental perspective, but also from a physical standpoint. Starting quarterback JT Daniels and backup Matt Fink both got whacked with injuries against the Utes. Daniels is under concussion protocol. Fink suffered a couple of broken ribs. What does that mean for the Men of Troy?

USC Trojans
USC running back Stephen Carr (7) looks for running room against the UNLV Rebels in the Trojans’s season-opening game at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Saturday, Sept. 1, 2018. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman/News4usonline

Well, it means that No. 3 quarterback Jack Sears, might be the one leading the way for the Trojans against the Sun Devils, even though there are expectations that Daniels will take the field. The good news to offset that stirring issue is the fact that Clay Helton is running a current unbeaten streak at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum as the Trojans head coach. So far, Helton is 19-0 at the Coliseum as the head coach. That’s a real home-field advantage.

USC could use a dose of its 48-17 beatdown against Arizona State last year. But running back Ronald Jones II and his 276 yards and quarterback Sam Darnold won’t be in the lineup on Saturday. So the Trojans are going to have to go with the personnel that they do have. Replacing a 4,000-yard passer is not exactly a walk in the park. But if Daniels is able to go, he is expected to shine. Daniels, a true freshman, has looked spectacular at times, while at other moments, he has looked his age.

His 56.9 percent completion rate and eight touchdowns/seven interceptions ratio, reflects the inconsistency of Daniels, who has passed for 1,629 yards thus far on the season. On the bright side, wide receiver Michael Pittman is high on the NCAA radar list with his 22.4 yards per catch numbers. Pittman is the No. 4 wide receiver in the country in yards per catch. Defensive wrecking ball Porter Gustin is doing damage on the other side of the ball, racking up sacks as if he is collecting a bag of apples.

Gustin leads the Pac-12 Conference in sacks and is the No. 6 pass rusher in the country.

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