Arizona State has put itself in contention for a Pac-12 Conference South Division title with back-to-back impressive victories, and the Sun Devils will try to take another big step when they host No. 21 USC on Saturday night. Arizona State defeated then-No. 5 Washington 13-7 on Oct. 14, then knocked off Utah 30-10 on Saturday to stay even with USC and Arizona in the conference loss column.
Arizona State hasn’t been known for its defense in recent years, but the Sun Devils have allowed just two touchdowns in their past nine quarters. Christian Sam continues to lead the Pac-12 at 9.7 tackles per game. and fellow linebacker DJ Calhoun is fourth at 8.7. Up front, JoJo Wicker is fourth in the conference with nine tackles for loss this season, and he and linebacker Alani Latu are tied for sixth with 4 1/2 sacks apiece. They could make things uncomfortable for USC quarterback Sam Darnold, who’s already struggling with turnover issues in his second year as a starter.
TV: 10:45 p.m. ET, ESPN. LINE: USC -3.
ABOUT USC (6-2, 4-1 Pac-12): Deontay Burnett appears to be close to 100 percent after catching eight passes for 113 yards and a touchdown in last week’s 49-14 loss at No. 10 Notre Dame. Burnett has dealt with shoulder and toe injuries this season, but still managed to start every game and leads the Pac-12 with 57 catches for 739 yards and seven touchdowns. Steven Mitchell Jr. also seems back up to speed after missing two games with a groin injury, and the senior wide receiver matched his career high with seven receptions against Notre Dame for 71 yards and a touchdown.
ABOUT ARIZONA STATE (4-3, 3-1): Regardless of how well their defense is playing, the Sun Devils will still need to put points on the board, and quarterback Manny Wilkins will need to be better than he has been lately. Wilkins hasn’t thrown a touchdown pass in the past three games and has three interceptions in that span. Wilkins likely doesn’t have good memories of the Trojans after suffering a left foot injury while getting sacked shortly before halftime of last season’s 41-20 loss to USC, causing him to miss the following week’s victory against UCLA.
1. USC is playing the first of four straight games against Pac-12 South Division teams.
2. USC has won 71.1 percent of its games in October in program history.
3. Arizona State K Brandon Ruiz is tied for first in the nation among freshmen with 11 made field goals.
PREDICTION: USC 31, Arizona State 27