Dec 27, 2019; San Diego, California, USA; Southern California Trojans quarterback Kedon Slovis (9) throws the ball against the Iowa Hawkeyes in the first quarter during the Holiday Bowl at SDCCU Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

News Articles

New faces abound as No. 20 USC hosts ASU in opener

A belated start to the 2020 Pac-12 Conference football season adds heightened importance when South Division counterparts Arizona State and No. 20-ranked Southern California meet Saturday at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

Both the Sun Devils and Trojans embark on the pandemic-shortened season with designs on a conference championship. They were picked second and first, respectively, in the division’s preseason media poll.

But with both programs featuring plenty of new faces in crucial spots, Saturday’s season opener has a steeper learning curve than the first game of a typical season.

“Not a lot of margin for error,” Arizona State coach Herm Edwards said during his Monday press conference. “Every team that’s involved in this Pac-12 situations (knows that) they’re all important. Every win you get, you feel like you’re in the race.”

Conversely, losses become more difficult to overcome with fewer opportunities to play catch-up. Each Pac-12 team is scheduled for six games, down from the nine in traditional seasons.

USC experienced the horse-race nature of a conference race in 2019, scoring a head-to-head win over eventual South champion Utah but losing its edge down the stretch.

Several key Trojans from that team return, led by quarterback Kedon Slovis. Thrown unexpectedly into the lineup last season in Week 1 after JT Daniels suffered an ACL tear, Slovis set a bevy of program records in an overhauled offense.

In year No. 2 of offensive coordinator Graham Harrell’s air-raid attack, Slovis will be throwing to standout wide receivers Amon-Ra St. Brown and Tyler Vaughns. Highly touted recruit Bru McCoy also joins the fold after redshirting in 2019, the result of a tumultuous recruiting process.

USC hopes the success it enjoyed shaking up its offense a season ago — improving its per-game scoring output by more than a touchdown — will translate with a new defensive coordinator. Todd Orlando replaced Clancy Pendergast in January.

Pendergast’s defense allowed an average of more than 29 points a game in 2019, failing to adjust to the pace-of-play introduced with a new offense. Conversely, Orlando spent the previous five years at Houston and Texas, overseeing defenses paired with quick-strike offenses.

Orlando is one of a multitude of new coordinators making their debut on Saturday. Arizona State brought in offensive coordinator Zak Hill from Boise State to replace the fired Rob Likens.

On defense for the Sun Devils, coordinator Danny Gonzales left for the head coaching vacancy at New Mexico. In his place, Edwards brought longtime NFL coach Marvin Lewis and promoted celebrated recruiter Antonio Pierce to co-defensive coordinators.

Lewis and Pierce are shifting from the 3-3-5 defense under Gonzales to a 4-3 base, which USC coach Clay Helton said on Monday presents “some unscouted looks.”

“[It’s] a total different system than last year,” Helton said.

USC won a 31-26 nail-biter between the teams last November after scoring 28 points in the first quarter.

“Marvin’s got a ton of experience, one of the better coaches in the history of our game,” Helton said.

Helton offered effusive praise for Arizona State linebackers Darien Butler and Merlin Robertson, both of whom enter their third year as starters. Butler and Robertson reflect Edwards’ stated willingness for “(giving younger) guys opportunities.”

That should be more so the case on offense than defense, where Arizona State is less experienced. The Sun Devils lost wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk and running back Eno Benjamin but dual-threat quarterback Jayden Daniels returns for his sophomore season.

Like USC’s Slovis, Daniels was impressive as a freshman with the Los Angeles-area native throwing 17 touchdowns passes with just two interceptions.

–Field Level Media

Field Level Media
Sport Writer & Editor
FLM has a North American focus while tying into regional and hyper-local resources – providing the ability to distribute compelling content through the writing of professional journalists. As the U.S. sports content provider to dozens of digital and print media publishers through strategic partnerships with the likes of Reuters and Nielsen Sports, FLM covers the nuts and bolts with a breaking news desk and game event coverage.

Upcoming Games

Aug 28th, 3:33 PM

Hawaii

UCLA

@

Aug 28th, 3:33 PM

Southern Utah

San Jose State (24)

@

Aug 28th, 3:33 PM

Nebraska

Illinois

@

Aug 28th, 3:33 PM

UCONN

Fresno State

@

Aug 28th, 3:33 PM

UTEP

New Mexico State

@

Sep 1st, 3:33 PM

Jacksonville State

UAB

@

Sep 2nd, 12:00 PM

East Carolina

Appalachian State

@

Sep 2nd, 3:33 PM

LIU

Florida International (FIU)

@

Sep 2nd, 3:33 PM

Weber State

Utah

@

Sep 2nd, 3:33 PM

Southern Utah

Arizona State

@

Sep 2nd, 3:33 PM

Western Illinois

Ball State (23)

@

Sep 2nd, 3:33 PM

North Carolina (18)

Virginia Tech

@

Sep 2nd, 3:33 PM

USF

NC State

@

Sep 2nd, 3:33 PM

UC Davis

Tulsa

@

Sep 2nd, 3:33 PM

Ohio State (2)

Minnesota

@

Sep 2nd, 3:33 PM

Houston Baptist

New Mexico

@

Sep 2nd, 3:33 PM

Eastern Washington

UNLV

@

Sep 3rd, 3:33 PM

Northern Colorado

Colorado

@

Sep 3rd, 3:33 PM

St. Francis-PA

Eastern Michigan

@

Sep 3rd, 3:33 PM

Old Dominion

Wake Forest

@

Sep 4th, 3:33 PM

Clemson (3)

Georgia (7)

@

Sep 4th, 3:33 PM

Duke

Charlotte

@

Sep 4th, 3:33 PM

The Citadel

Coastal Carolina (14)

@

Sep 4th, 3:33 PM

Florida Atlantic

Florida (13)

@

Sep 4th, 3:33 PM

Central Michigan

Missouri

@

Sep 4th, 3:33 PM

Colgate

Boston College

@

Sep 4th, 3:33 PM

Montana

Washington

@

Sep 4th, 3:33 PM

Northern Iowa

Iowa State (9)

@

Sep 4th, 3:33 PM

Louisiana-Monroe

Kentucky

@

Sep 4th, 3:33 PM

Bowling Green

Tennessee

@

Sep 4th, 3:33 PM

Fresno State

Oregon

@

Sep 4th, 3:33 PM

Eastern Illinois

South Carolina

@

Sep 4th, 3:33 PM

Army

Georgia State

@

Sep 4th, 3:33 PM

East Tennessee State

Vanderbilt

@

Sep 4th, 3:33 PM

Kansas State

Stanford

@

Sep 4th, 3:33 PM

Kent State

Texas A&M (4)

@

Sep 4th, 3:33 PM

Akron

Auburn

@

Sep 4th, 3:33 PM

Utah State

Washington State

@

Sep 4th, 3:33 PM

Southern University

Troy

@

Sep 4th, 3:33 PM

Rice

Arkansas

@

Sep 4th, 3:33 PM

NIU

Georgia Tech

@

Sep 4th, 3:33 PM

Nevada

California

@

Sep 4th, 3:33 PM

Missouri State

Oklahoma State (20)

@

Sep 4th, 3:33 PM

LA Tech

Mississippi State

@

Sep 4th, 3:33 PM

Monmouth-New Jersey

Middle Tennessee

@

Sep 4th, 3:33 PM

San Jose State (24)

USC (21)

@

Sep 4th, 3:33 PM

Southern Miss

South Alabama

@

Sep 4th, 3:33 PM

Northwestern State

North Texas

@

Sep 4th, 3:33 PM

Louisiana-Lafayette (15)

Texas (19)

@

Sep 4th, 3:33 PM

Wagner

Buffalo (25)

@

Sep 4th, 3:33 PM

Baylor

Texas State

@

Sep 4th, 3:33 PM

Syracuse

Ohio

@

Sep 4th, 3:33 PM

Alabama (1)

Miami-FL (22)

@

Sep 4th, 3:33 PM

Duquesne

TCU

@

Sep 4th, 3:33 PM

Central Arkansas

Arkansas State

@

Sep 4th, 3:33 PM

Norfolk State

Toledo

@

Sep 4th, 3:33 PM

LSU

UCLA

@

Sep 4th, 3:33 PM

Arizona

BYU (11)

@

Sep 4th, 3:33 PM

Bethune-Cookman

UTEP

@

Sep 4th, 3:33 PM

Campbell

Liberty (17)

@

Sep 4th, 3:33 PM

Tennessee-Martin

WKU

@

Sep 4th, 3:33 PM

Miami-OH

Cincinnati (8)

@

Sep 4th, 3:33 PM

Holy Cross

UCONN

@

Sep 4th, 3:33 PM

Houston

Texas Tech

@

Sep 4th, 3:33 PM

Nicholls State

Memphis

@

Sep 4th, 3:33 PM

Massachusetts

Pittsburgh

@

Sep 4th, 3:33 PM

Boise State

UCF

@

Sep 4th, 3:33 PM

William & Mary

Virginia

@

Sep 4th, 3:33 PM

South Dakota

Kansas

@

Sep 4th, 3:33 PM

Abilene Christian

SMU

@

Sep 4th, 3:33 PM

Marshall

Navy

@

Sep 4th, 3:33 PM

Oklahoma (6)

Tulane

@

Sep 4th, 3:33 PM

UTSA

Illinois

@

Sep 4th, 3:33 PM

New Mexico State

San Diego State

@

Sep 4th, 3:33 PM

Portland State

Hawaii

@

Sep 4th, 3:33 PM

Indiana (12)

Iowa (16)

@

Sep 4th, 3:33 PM

West Virginia

Maryland

@

Sep 4th, 3:33 PM

Western Michigan

Michigan

@

Sep 4th, 3:33 PM

Michigan State

Northwestern (10)

@

Sep 4th, 3:33 PM

Lafayette

Air Force

@

Sep 4th, 3:33 PM

Montana State

Wyoming

@

Sep 4th, 3:33 PM

Oregon State

Purdue

@

Sep 4th, 3:33 PM

Temple

Rutgers

@

Sep 4th, 3:33 PM

Penn State

Wisconsin

@

Sep 4th, 3:33 PM

South Dakota State

Colorado State

@

Sep 4th, 6:00 PM

Gardner-Webb

Georgia Southern

@