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Countdown to Kickoff: An assessment of ASU football's fifth 2022 opponent, USC

Anthony Totri Avatar
June 9, 2022

ASU football is now 84 days away from its season opener, and 114 days from its Week 5 matchup against USC. The USC Trojans have had one of the spiciest offseasons in recent college football memory, and they look destined to make some noise on a national basis. 

The Trojans won a measly four games in 2021. With that being said, since the season came to a close, there hasn’t been a football program in the country that’s utilized NIL better than USC. 

The wave of players who transferred to USC was likely impacted by the addition of first-year Trojans coach Lincoln Riley. After poaching Riley away from Oklahoma, the onslaught of the transfer portal commenced. 

That’s when USC’s roster seemingly evolved into a college football version of the Avengers, which certainly doesn’t bode well for Arizona State. 

In every part of this Countdown to Kickoff series, the ASU secondary has been pegged as the weakest link of the team. There might not be a tougher test for that unit than on Oct. 1. 

USC sophomore transfer quarterback Caleb Williams followed Riley from Oklahoma to Los Angeles. Williams proved his value and talent last year as a freshman, throwing for 21 touchdowns and four interceptions. Not to mention, Williams didn’t really see significant time until he replaced then-starting quarterback Spencer Rattler against Texas. 

Apr 23, 2022; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans quarterback Caleb Williams (13) reacts during the spring game at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

It’d be one issue for the Sun Devil defense if their only task was to contain Williams, but that’s not the case. In the past few months, the USC offense also added junior transfer wide receiver Brenden Rice, the son of NFL legend Jerry Rice. However, Rice isn’t even the best name they added at that position. 

Junior wide receiver Jordan Addison announced his transfer to USC a few weeks ago. The former Pitt wideout won the Biletnikoff Award, which is given to the nation’s most outstanding wide receiver.

Addison put up video game numbers at Pitt, racking up 1,593 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns on 100 receptions. Addison is just a piece of the massive puzzle that the Trojans have built thus far.

Since Riley took over in LA, USC has added players at wide receiver, quarterback, offensive line, cornerback, linebacker and others. While the ASU defense will have its hands full in early October, the same goes for the Sun Devil offense. 

Junior transfer quarterback Emory Jones will line up for ASU football, and he’ll see a former Sun Devil on the other side in USC sophomore transfer linebacker Eric Gentry. Gentry was touted as the best defender on the ASU roster just a couple months ago prior to his transfer. 

Gentry earned All-American honors as a freshman at ASU. Sun Devil sophomore running back Daniyel Ngata will get the pleasure of avoiding Gentry all game. Nonetheless, Gentry isn’t the only transfer linebacker ASU’s offense will have to worry about.

Junior transfer linebacker Shane Lee made the jump to LA from none other than Alabama. Lee is a ferocious inside linebacker who packs a punch in the run game. 

In previous Countdown to Kickoff pieces, there have been keys to a win, or seemingly recipes for close games. That recipe is much harder to cook up against a team like USC.

It’s a roster made up of talented pieces from across the nation. However, it’s also a group that hasn’t played together much, if at all, with several of the transfers joining the program following the team’s spring session. 

The lack of chemistry and time spent together may be the only real hole to the USC roster. It’s worth noting, though, that by the time ASU faces the Trojans, they’ll have had an entire fall camp and several games under their belt.

The way ASU beats USC is quite frankly a mystery. It may simply come down to Jones needing to play his best football. He’ll need to match what Williams is expected to do against a choppy Sun Devil secondary. If Jones is able to keep pace, and Ngata is able to find some rhythm in the rushing attack, then Sun Devil nation may put the country on notice.

ASU football fans should expect USC to be ranked in the AP Top 25 when this game is played. The Trojans’ opponents prior to ASU include Rice, Stanford, Fresno State and Oregon State. 

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