LOS ANGELES -- Curtis McNeal ran for 159 yards and scored three touchdowns as USC overcame quarterback Matt Barkley's three interceptions to beat Arizona State 38-17 before 80,154 at the Coliseum on Saturday.
Barkley, a one-time Heisman Trophy front-runner, now has 13 interceptions, nearly twice as many as last season. But he really only mirrored the rest of the Trojans, who came out sluggish and trailed much of the first half.
Perhaps it was a hangover from last week's thrilling loss to Oregon. But it was still a victory and meant USC can advance to the Pacific-12 Conference title game with a victory over UCLA next week.
The Trojans finally overcame their sluggishness in the third quarter and led 28-17 after McNeal took a short pass and turned it into a 22-yard touchdown with 19 seconds left.
It was the first comfortable lead of the day for the No. 19 Trojans, who did not even have a lead until McNeal's 5-yard touchdown run with 8:49 left in the third quarter put them up 21-17.
Arizona State opened the scoring on a 34-yard touchdown pass from Taylor Kelly to Chris Coyle with 10:51 left in the first quarter.
The Trojans finally came to life when Barkley found Marqise Lee behind the defense for an 80-yard touchdown pass with 1:36 left in the first quarter to tie the game 7-7. Lee finished with 12 catches for 178 yards.
On the ensuing kickoff, USC recovered a fumble but Barkley's pass was intercepted to end the drive.
Arizona State safety Alden Darby returned another interception 70 yards for a touchdown to give the Sun Devils a 14-7 lead with 11:15 left in the second quarter. The Trojans tied the game on Barkley's 5-yard touchdown pass to tight end Xavier Grimble with 35 seconds left in the half.
Arizona State kicker Jon Mora's 28-yard field goal gave the Sun Devils a 17-14 advantage early in the third quarter. The drive started when defensive end Carl Bradford tipped and intercepted Barkley's pass. It was Barkley's third interception.
The Trojans immediately answered with McNeal's 5-yard touchdown run to make it 21-17 with 8:49 left.
In the fourth quarter, Andre Heidari kicked a 26-yard field goal and McNeal padded the lead with a 27-yard scoring run.
NOTES: Barkley broke the Pac-12 record for passing yards in the first quarter. ... Lee had at least 100 receiving yards for the seventh time this season and 11th in his career. Lee also had at least 10 receptions for a school-record eighth time. ... McNeal rushed for 100 yards for the sixth time in his career and second time this season. ... A representative from the Sun Bowl attended the game.