USC, Arizona State face off to stay in Pac-12 South race
TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — Southern California lost its coach after two games, dropped three games in the past five. Arizona State seems to have lost it focus, giving up 56 straight points over the span of two ugly losses.
Somehow, the Trojans and Sun Devils still have a shot at winning the Pac-12 South.
But now the margin for error has become paper thin, turning Saturday’s game in the desert into an elimination game of sorts.
“It’s about the process and where it starts,” Arizona State coach Herm Edwards said. “Every week you have an opportunity to win a game. The joy you feel, the accomplishment you feel as a football team to win. And we haven’t felt that.”
Arizona State (5-3, 3-2) seemed to be in control of the Pac-12 South just three weeks ago. Then the Sun Devils allowed Utah to score 28 straight points in a 35-21 loss and followed that up by giving up 28 straight points in a 34-21 loss to Washington State.
“We didn’t respond to adversity,” Edwards said.
The Sun Devils still have a little time. They’re a game behind Utah, though the Utes hold the tiebreaker after the Oct. 16 win.
The Trojans (4-4, 3-3) have even less time.
They lost their coach when Clay Helton was fired after the second game and had a stretch of three losses in four games before beating Arizona last week. USC also lost star wideout Drake London to a season-ending ankle injury but is just 1 1/2 games behind Utah, which also holds a tiebreaker over the Trojans.
“The morale is high because there’s a lot of opportunities,” USC interim coach Donte Williams said.
USC’s quarterback carousel apparently will continue to spin.
Junior Kedon Slovis and freshman Jaxson Dart split time against Arizona last week and will likely do the same against Arizona State.
“We’ll continue to assess that as it gets closer, closer to game time,” Williams said. “Arizona State provides certain issues that we’ve got to make sure we’re able to handle.”
Dart made his college debut when Slovis injured his neck against Washington State on Sept. 18, but got injured himself, suffering a knee injury that required surgery. Dart returned last week against Arizona and was under center in the the fourth quarter of a close game.
Slovis passed for 204 yards and Dart had 109 in the 41-34 win.
Arizona State should get back one of its best offensive players with the expected return of running back Rachaad White.
White didn’t play against Washington State due to a right leg injury and the Sun Devils were never able to get anything going on the ground without him, finishing with 131 yards rushing.
White, who leads Arizona State with 483 yards and nine touchdowns rushing, returned to practice this week.
USC will be without one of the nation’s best receivers for the rest of the season.
London suffered a broken ankle in the first half against Arizona last week, robbing the Trojans of their biggest weapon. London set an FBS record with 79 catches in his team’s first seven games and finished with 88 catches for 1,084 yards and seven TDs.
“A big impact player and not having him is kind of a loss, but we have a lot of people that are next up to do a job,” USC linebacker Drake Jackson said.
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