An Offensive Showdown

Sept. 30, 2005

An offensive showdown

Bob BaumAssociated PressSept. 29, 2005 03:30 PM

TEMPE, Ariz. - One offense is compared to the greatest in the history of college football. The other brings eye-popping statistics that rival or surpass any in the game.

No. 1 USC and No. 14 Arizona State might short-circuit the scoreboard when they meet Saturday at Sun Devil Stadium.

'If we come out executing and take it one play at a time, I really feel that we can't be stopped,' Arizona State wide receiver Derek Hagan said. 'We have a great offense and guys that can make plays at any time. Whether it is at receiver, running back, or tight ends, we have playmakers on offense and you never know who's going to get the ball.'

The same can be said, of course, of the Trojans, whose offense is at least as powerful as it was a year ago despite the departure of offensive coordinator Norm Chow.

'We haven't changed what we're doing,' coach Pete Carroll said. 'We have a philosophy that we believe in. We just wanted to keep it going.'

The teams have combined for 4,224 yards and 366 points in seven games. USC (3-0) is averaging 616 yards and 59 points per game, Arizona State (3-1) 592 yards and 47 points.

Sun Devils junior Sam Keller leads the nation in yards passing (1,443) and touchdowns (16) with two interceptions. Matt Leinart, with one Heisman Trophy already in his possession, has 1,028 yards and 10 touchdowns. Leinart has completed 68 percent of his passes (59-of-87) to Keller's 60 percent (88-of-147).

The difference could come on the ground, where the Trojans offer the powerhouse 1-2 punch of Reggie Bush and LenDale White.

'They may have the two best offensive players in college football in Leinart and Bush,' Arizona State coach Dirk Koetter said. 'How do you stop an offense like that? No one has. We have good stats on offense, but USC's stats are unheard of.'

A SAMPLING OF TROJAN NUMBERS:

-Of USC's 24 scoring drives this season, 16 took less than three minutes and five less than a minute. Thirteen were five plays or less and seven went at least 80 yards.

-The Trojans have outscored opponents 105-21 in the second half.

-Five times USC has scored 20 unanswered points.

-Bush and White each rushed for 100 yards last week against Oregon. Bush is averaging 8.3 yards per carry this season, White 6.3.

ARIZONA STATE HAS A FEW IMPRESSIVE STATS, TOO:

-The Sun Devils had a school record 773 yards of offense against Northwestern.

-Keller has 19 touchdowns and 1,813 yards passing in five career starts.

-Hagan, the team's career receiving leader, is one of 10 players in Pac-10 history with at least 200 catches and 3,000 yards.

The atmosphere has been electric on campus this week. The game is a sellout at 71,706-seat Sun Devil Stadium. ESPN's 'Game Day' crew is coming to Tempe.

'I see it as a coming out party for our entire state and our entire school,' Keller said.

The party would be spoiled if USC routs the Sun Devils, as it did a year ago 45-7 in Los Angeles. The Trojans are comfortable on top and seem oblivious to the pressure that comes from being there.

'One of the things that people refrain from talking about is this puts a lot of pressure on the people we play, too,' Carroll said. 'We're kind of happy that we're in this situation. We kind of like it, and we're going to hold on to it as best we can.'

The Sun Devils insist they can compete. A near-miss 35-31 home loss to LSU was encouraging, despite the outcome.

The ever-confident Keller plans to stomp out any feelings of awe by his teammates toward the Trojans.

'They are just college kids, just like us,' he said. 'USC is well coached and they play well and we're well coached and we can play well. We just have to not worry about their aura and that they've earned that for a reason. That can't play into our mind-set.

'We have the leaders and players that will make sure if anyone is wide-eyed out there, that will stop very fast.'

Keller called it 'just another game,' but added 'against the best team I will ever play.'

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