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Know Your Enemies: USC Provides Ultimate Test for Pac-12 South Hopes

There's no doubting the Trojans will be a major roadblock in ASU's quest for the South division.
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Know Your Enemies is a series where AllSunDevils interviews reporters from across the conference to gain insight on their respective teams. With Oregon and Washington already previewed, we move forward to USC. 

Team: USC Trojans
Division: Pac-12 South
2020 Record: 5-1

In recent memory, one major roadblock has stood in the way of the Arizona State Sun Devils winning a Pac-12 South title: The USC Trojans. 

That's not to say USC has dominated the Sun Devils as of late. In fact, the last three meetings between the two schools have a total point differential of just nine points. However, the Trojans have emerged victorious in each of the last two meetings and have won the last five of six matchups with Arizona State. 

After narrowly losing 2020's Pac-12 title game to Oregon, the Trojans appear to be on a mission to return once again on unfinished business this season. Pac-12 media members voted USC to again with the South division ahead of the conference's media day, and expectations in Los Angeles fall nothing short of that. 

Led by quarterback and Heisman Trophy candidate Kedon Slovis, the Trojans offense remains stacked at all skill positions with an offensive line that returns four of five starters from last season. 

Defensively, USC scored five total defensive players on the All-Pac-12 preseason team ahead of 2021. Despite losing 2020's Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year in safety Talanoa Hufanga, the Trojans welcome another strong recruiting class led by top-ranked defensive lineman Korey Foreman. 

After starting 5-0 last season, the Trojans fell just short in their quest to capture their first Pac-12 title since 2017. So, what's in store for USC this year? 

AllTrojans lead reporter Claudette Pattison answered a handful of questions in regards to USC's upcoming season:

Interview With AllTrojans' Claudette Pattison

Q: USC fell just short on winning a Pac-12 championship last season. From 2020 to 2021, what do you think has changed to give the Trojans a better chance at winning the conference?

Pattison: One common theme with USC last season was failing to get momentum going right away. They managed to win four games in 2020 all in the fourth quarter but with a team like Oregon, their luck ran out. I think it will help that the Trojans are actually able to complete a full fall camp and summer training session opposed to last year. 

Once the Pac-12 gave the green light to resume the 2020 season, the team was thrusted back into things without proper time to prepare. I think you will see a difference from both sides of the ball with a regular practice schedule installed prior to their first game of the season.

Q: All eyes are on Kedon Slovis, as he's projected to be one of the top quarterbacks in the country. What do you think Slovis does well, and what's expected out of him in USC's offense?

Pattison: This will probably be the last season for Slovis if he plays like he did in 2019. From what we're hearing it sounds like the QB has done a lot of off-season work and training to prepare for this season. Slovis knows the pressure is on and it's a pivotal year for him. I expect he will have a better season in 2021 than 2020.

Q: Flipping to the defensive side of the football, USC's defense appears to have a strong front seven and a secondary that displays depth at each position. Five-star defensive linemen Korey Foreman figures to have an impact right away, but who are some other notable defenders to watch for?

Pattison: Korey Foreman has the potential to become an instant impact player for the Trojans, but don't sleep on his friend and fellow linebacker Raesjon Davis. Davis was the No. 3 overall player in the state of California and after USC's first fall practice Clay Helton described him as having a 'pro-mindset'. Davis is commonly described as versatile, with a non-stop motor and aggressive edge and could be a solid contributor for USC's defense this season.

Q: The matchups between USC/ASU have been nothing short of dramatic in recent memory, with just nine total points separating the teams in their last three combined meetings. 2021's version will undoubtedly be another hot matchup with both teams expecting to compete for the Pac-12 South title. From a USC perspective, how much of a threat are the Sun Devils to leapfrog USC?

Pattison: I think USC always views Arizona State as one of the more competitive teams in the Pac-12 conference. That being said, Clay Helton's mindset seems to be about focusing solely on their team and each game 'week by week'. I think Helton knows that the Sun Devils have talent, but they are more concerned about their own path to the Pac-12 title game vs. analyzing which teams are their biggest threats.

Q: Give me one strength of the team you believe can propel USC to their goals, and one weakness you believe could hold them back.

Pattison: When USC's offense is in sync they can be electric, that being said last season they had trouble getting things going right off the bat. If they fail to find their momentum early-on this season that could be a huge problem this year.

Q: How do you foresee the season panning out?

Pattison: I think USC has some really solid pieces on both sides of the ball. They also have plenty of talented freshmen. It's too early in fall camp to really get a gauge of how the 2021 roster will look, but I would predict a solid season for the Trojans if they can work out the kinks during fall camp.

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Donnie Druin is a Deputy Editor with AllSunDevils. Follow Donnie on Twitter @DonnieDruin, and AllSunDevils @AllSunDevils. Like and follow AllSunDevils on Facebook, and for more ASU news visit