Arizona St.-Southern Cal Preview

The Associated Press

Southern California and Arizona State have hit hard times of late, but there remains hope for both in winning the Pac-12 South Division.

The No. 21 Trojans are looking to avoid their first three-game slide in 11 years Saturday when they host a Sun Devils team that has dropped three straight overall and six in a row at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

USC (6-3, 4-3) was ranked No. 1 in the preseason but a talented team that features offensive stars in Matt Barkley, Marqise Lee, Robert Woods and Silas Redd has developed into one of the nation's biggest disappointments.

The Trojans fell 62-51 at home to No. 2 Oregon last Saturday. The Ducks finished with the most points and most total yards (730) ever allowed by USC.

"To sum it up, it was a combination of two things - they did a great job and we didn't," coach Lane Kiffin said. "That's how you end up with world breaking numbers like we had so we've moved on to the next game and getting ready for Arizona State."

USC has not lost three straight since a four-game slide in 2001 in Pete Carroll's first year as coach.

Despite their recent struggles, the Trojans are only one-half game behind No. 17 UCLA for first place in the South. USC heads across town to face Jim Mora's team next week.

"We're very fortunate to still have a lot on the line even though we've screwed some games up because of the balance of the South so I think that helps as well," Kiffin said.

Arizona State (5-4, 3-3) also can harbor hopes of winning the South despite three consecutive losses. The Sun Devils have struggled to defend some of the top attacks in the conference, yielding 1,364 yards during this slide.

"Tough people come out of tough times," first-year coach Todd Graham said. "Our guys have to respond. We need everybody somehow and someway to improve their game and take on one of the most talented teams in the league."

Arizona State still boasts the second-best defense in the conference, allowing 333.3 yards per game.

The Sun Devils will have a difficult task in slowing down Barkley, whose 30 touchdown passes are the second-best total in the FBS.

Barkley has thrown for 977 yards in the consecutive defeats with eight touchdowns and four interceptions. His five TD passes last week wasn't enough.

"We've done a great job moving the ball since the beginning of the season, and we've just got to do a better job putting the ball in the end zone,'' he said.

Lee had 12 catches for 157 yards. He is first in the FBS in receptions (88), second in yards per game (142.9) and third in TD receptions (12).

"Obviously Barkley has a phenomenal arm and a great deep ball," Graham said. "I've watched some passes that are just phenomenal. Marqise Lee is hands-down the best receiver in the country."

Graham's passing attack, meanwhile, has faltered in recent weeks. Taylor Kelly threw for 926 yards, 11 touchdowns and no interceptions during the Sun Devils' 3-0 Pac-12 start but his production during this losing streak is down to 561 yards with six touchdowns, four picks and 10 sacks.

The losing has brought back memories of a five-game skid to close 2011 that capped a 6-7 season and led to the dismissal of coach Dennis Erickson.

"This is a great place and we're obviously just getting started here," Graham said. "We've obviously had three tough weeks, but let's get to the end of the season and evaluate where we're at. Just don't give up on us."

Arizona State ended an 11-game losing streak to USC with a 43-22 home win Sept. 24, 2011. Barkley was held to 227 yards with one TD and two interceptions.

The Sun Devils' last win at the Coliseum was a 26-16 victory in 1999.