Time to shift the focus to the defense, which faces an uptempo test in Arizona State.
- Arizona State actually outgained Stanford last week (417-391) despite the lopsided score (42-28) against them. The Sun Devils are at their best when they play at a fast break speed. "The tempo is good," said USC DC Clancy Pendergast about the ASU offense. "They spread the ball around to a lot of different receivers which makes them difficult to defend. They use the whole field."
- Seven different Sun Devils caught passes against the Cardinal, but Jaelen Strong was the primary focus with 12 catches for 168 yards. "He does a nice job high-pointing the ball," said Pendergast. "We'll have our hands full with him. He is definitely a guy that they have targeted a lot as of late."
- As always, Pendergast is more focused on the Trojans' execution than the opponent's game plan. The USC front seven has meshed perfectly with the defensive coordinator's aggressive style. "It has been a good skill set fit," he said about the returning players learning his system.
- Sophomore Leonard Williams is at the center of the defensive success though four games with a team-high 6 tackles-for-loss. Lane Kiffin called Williams "phenomenal," and Pendergast expects him to get even better. "[He] has to get more consistent with his technique because the sky is the limit for him with his athletic ability."
- Morgan Breslin has 5.5 TFLs and 4 sacks in only 3 games. Pendergast on Breslin: "He's just very focused. Every time he is in the McKay Center, he is so locked in and in the meeting rooms. He just wants to be the best player that he can. Those are the kind of guys that are a joy to coach."
- Devon Kennard has made a seamless transition into the 5-2 defense because he provides "a lot of flexibility mentally as well as athletically," said Pendergast. Lane Kiffin on Kennard: "I can't imagine someone playing better than he is. His film right now is really elite level film."
- The defense started last week with the expert pooch punting of Kris Albarado, who used the Australian technique of pointing the nose of the football down to get the ball to stop dead inside the five. For his efforts, he was named the Pac-12 Special Teams Player of the Week. "Honestly, I was pretty shocked," said Albarado about the honor. "We really hurt their offense a lot with how we punted and how we covered. I thought as a whole we did very well, [but] I thought I did OK. It's pretty cool to get the attention."
- One offensive note: Cody Kessler started 10 of 15 for 125 yards against Utah State, which Lane Kiffin sees as an extension of the progress made in the Boston College game. Then, Kessler banged his hand which contributed to finishing 3 of 12 for 39 yards. "I felt like we were making some strides prior to Cody's injury," Kiffin said. "Unfortunately, we kind of regressed a little bit, so hopefully, we'll get back on track."
- Here is the full press conference with Lane Kiffin...