Struggling USC is hunting for an upset when it takes on Arizona State on the road Saturday night. Follow along for live updates.
USC receives opening kickoff and Kedon Slovis starts at quarterback
The final Pac-12 after dark game of the night is under way.
USC received the opening kickoff and Gary Bryant Jr. returned it 37 yards to the USC 37.
Quarterback Kedon Slovis, who has recently split snaps with Jaxson Dart, is starting for Trojans.
USC left tackle Courtland Ford and defensive end Nick Figueroa out
USC will play Arizona State without a few veteran players.
USC vs. Arizona State matchups: Will Trojans’ running game overshadow QB carousel?
The final month of USC’s season was supposed to be its most difficult stretch, a gauntlet that included two tough road trips, a crosstown showdown with UCLA and an out-of-conference finale against already bowl-eligible Brigham Young.
The rest of the schedule turned out to be quite a slog, too, and as the Trojans enter the final month in much worse shape than they expected, their final four games have taken on a new significance. USC must win at least two of those four to avoid missing out on the bowl season for the second time in four years.
That uphill climb begins Saturday at 7:30 p.m. PDT in Tempe, Ariz., when USC meets an Arizona State team in the midst of a serious slide. The Sun Devils have played the entire season under the dark cloud of scandal, but the cracks have only started to show over the last two weeks, as they lost to Washington State and Utah by two touchdowns.
Bolstered by a rushing attack that ranks among the Pac-12’s best, Arizona State will aim to run it early and often. The same strategy could be in play for USC, which comes to town as an eight-point underdog, setting up for a physical matchup in the trenches.
Here’s what to expect out of Saturday’s meeting of two Pac-12 South teams that expected to be contenders.
USC vs. Arizona State: College football betting lines, odds and analysis
By Adam Burke
USC won last week, but it might have lost a shot at bowl eligibility in the process. Star wide receiver Drake London suffered a season-ending ankle injury and the Trojans will have to adjust to life without their best offensive player to take on Arizona State at Sun Devil Stadium on Saturday night.
The Trojans will be underdogs in each of their four remaining games and need to win two of them to be eligible for a bowl game on their own merits. If there aren’t enough teams with six wins, the Trojans could be picked for one if they have five wins, but that seems like a long shot.
USC will have to take it one game at a time and it starts this week in Tempe.
USC Trojans at Arizona State Sun Devils (-8.5, 59)
Kyle Ford is one of several USC players ready to step up after Drake London injury
As Drake London lay writhing in pain on the Coliseum field last Saturday, clutching a fractured ankle that would prematurely end the star receiver’s last season at USC, the reaction of his fellow wideouts, many of whom were kneeling close by, was visceral. The injury felt like a gut punch that left an entire offense gasping for air.
“It really hurt in the moment,” sophomore Gary Bryant Jr. said.
“We all felt that,” added sophomore Tahj Washington.
Few, though, could understand what USC’s star receiver was going through quite like Kyle Ford. When the two receivers signed with USC as part of its 2019 class, Ford was the five-star recruit, a top-five in-state prospect presumably bound for stardom, while London barely cracked the nation’s top 250. But recovery from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee forced Ford to sit out for most of his freshman season. In the meantime, London emerged as a star in the making.
Uncertainty remains for USC quarterbacks about playing time
For the better part of three seasons, there had been no question. Since taking over in the wake of JT Daniels’ season-ending knee injury in the 2019 opener, Slovis had started 25 games, enough to move into seventh place in career passing yards at USC. He had been named to the All-Pac-12 first team in each of his first two seasons and was chosen conference freshman of the year in 2019.
But in the game’s most critical moment Saturday, with the Trojans clinging to a touchdown lead over Arizona, Slovis was left on the sideline. Instead, freshman Jaxson Dart took his place, leading a scoring drive that consisted of four handoffs and a field goal — just enough to slip past the Wildcats 41-34.
Neither quarterback was aware until just before that fourth-quarter drive who would step in. A few days later, that same sense of uncertainty remains at USC.