Gary Doran

Advanced Stats Report: USC Trojans


The USC Trojans will be ASU’s first conference game on the road in 2016. The Trojans lead the series with ASU 19-12, with USC winning last year’s game. The Trojans had a ten-year stretch of wins against the Devils, while ASU has not won more than two games in a row against the Trojans. On a positive note for Devil fans, excluding the Pete Carroll era, ASU would lead the series 12-11.

If recent history is any indication, USC should put plenty of points on the board against the Devils this year, because in the Todd Graham era, ASU has not held the Trojans under 34 points.

Below is a table of last year’s stats: (2015 Record, Overall: 8-6 – Conference: 6-3)


Offense– In the past four years, USC has only had one player rush for more than 1,000 yards in a season (Javorius Allen, 1,489 yards in 2014)
– In the last four seasons, USC has not placed higher than seventh in the conference in yards rushing per game
– Last season, USC led the conference in yards per carry on third and short yardage, generating a first down   67-percent of the time when they ran the ball in that situation
– Last season, only two of the 26 Trojan rushing touchdowns came on third down
– Last season, USC had the conference’s second highest yards per carry average in their opponents red zone
– There were only two games last year in which USC did not score a rushing touchdown (ASU and Colorado)
– Four of the 26 rushing touchdowns scored by USC last season came on fourth down, which was the most  in the conference
– In the three season 2012 to 2014, USC averaged 5.32 yards per carry against the ASU defense, while last year, Ronald Jones alone averaged 5.40 yards per carry against the Devils
– Last season, USC tied Oregon and Arizona for the most rushing touchdowns while playing at home
– Last season, USC threw the fewest interceptions in the conference with only seven in 463 pass attempts
– With an experienced quarterback the past two years, USC threw the ball 53.2-percent of the time in both years, whereas in Cody Kessler’s first year in 2013, USC threw the ball only 42.2-percent of the time
– In Cody Kessler’s initial year at quarterback in 2013, he completed 65.2-percent of his passes for 20 touchdowns and seven interceptions, in his final season last year, he completed 66.8-percent of his pass  attempts throwing 29 touchdown passes and seven interceptions.
– In his three years at USC, Cody Kessler only threw five interceptions in 644 pass attempts in home games
– In his career, Cody Kessler threw an interception against ASU once every 35.7 pass attempts, while he threw one once every 72.1 pass attempts against the rest of the conference
– Last season, only one USC interception was thrown from within their opponents’ territory
– Over the past three seasons, USC quarterbacks have thrown 58 first half touchdown passes, but only 31 in  the second half


– Last season, Trojan opponents only averaged converting a third down run into a first down only 33-  percent of the time
– Last season, the USC defense did not give up a rushing touchdown on third down
Defense– In the first quarter of their games last season, the USC defense ranked next to last in the conference in yards they allowed, in the second quarter it was eight, in the third quarter it was sixth and in the fourth  quarter they ranked second
– Only three opponents last year were able to average more than five yards per carry against the USC  defense: Notre Dame – 6.11, ASU – 5.20 and Stanford – 5.14
– Only four of the thirteen opponents last year were able to score more than one rushing touchdown against the USC defense: Stanford (2 games)-5, Notre Dame-2, ASU-2 and UCLA-2
– When opponents got into the USC red zone last season, the yards per carry the USC defense gave up ranked them eight in the conference, (2.68)
– Only five of the 17 rushing touchdowns given up by the USC defense last year happened when the Trojans were trailing in the game
– Over the past three years, the Trojan defense has improved within the conference from sixth, to fourth to third last year in yards per carry allowed
– ASU has had up and down rushing results against the USC defense in terms of yards per carry; 2012-2.04, 2013-7.46, 2014-1.41, 2015-5.20)
– In the first eight games of the season, the Trojan defense gave up ten touchdown passes in facing 275 pass   attempts, whereas in the next six games they gave up 15 touchdown passes against only 182 pass attempts
– Last season, the Trojan defense was tenth in the conference in the percentage of pass attempts they allowed to be completed, that was the worse ranking the Trojans have had in over eight years
– In seven home games last year, the Trojan defense allowed only 59.5-percent of opponent passes to be completed and intercepted ten passes, while in seven road games they allowed 67.7-percent of opponent  passes to be completed and only intercepted four passes
– ASU was the only conference opponent last year unable to throw a touchdown pass against the Trojans
– Only ASU and Oregon gave up more long pass completions than the Trojans last year
– Eleven of the 25 touchdown passes given up last year by the Trojans happened outside their red zone (44%)
– During the regular season last year, the percentage of passes the Trojan defense gave up increased in each month
– The Trojans led the conference last season in getting interceptions on fourth down (3)
– In the eight games they won last year, the Trojans intercepted twelve passes, while in the six games they lost, they only intercepted two passes
– In the last four years, the interception totals by the USC defense has decreased; (2012-19, 2013-17, 2014-14 and 2015-14)
– In the past two seasons, over 40-percent of the interceptions by the Trojan defense came on third down
– Over the past three seasons, the USC defense has ranked first or second in the conference in limiting opponents from converting third downs into first downs
– Over the last four seasons, USC has increased their ranking in the conference in turnover margin; from ninth to fifth, to fourth to second last year. This was in part because the offense protected the ball better  each year
– USC was first in the conference over the past two seasons in scoring touchdowns once they entered their opponents red zone
– In 2013 and 2014, USC was second in the conference in limiting opponents from getting into the end zone  from the USC red zone, however, last season they fell to seventh place.


Over the last few seasons, USC has not set the conference on fire with its run game, however, the Trojans have been able to run the ball effectively against the ASU defense. Additionally, their freshman running back averaged almost six and a half yards per carry last year. The Trojans also run the ball pretty well when playing games in the Coliseum. The Trojans will probably need to rely upon their run game, at least early in the 2016 season, as they will be breaking in a new quarterback after three years of Cody Kessler.

Drawing conclusion for the game from the recent USC passing statistics many be a little difficult, however, it was notable that even with an experienced signal caller who rarely turned the ball over, the ASU defense was able to pick off his passes at a greater clip than the other conference opponents Cody Kessler faced. Maybe that trend could possibly continue with the new USC quarterback in this year’s game.

One big positive that USC has maintained over the past few year is that they don’t turn the ball over much. They didn’t lose many fumbles, and their three-year starting quarterback didn’t throw many interceptions. Will that continue with a new signal caller? Another big positive, which may or may not continue with a new quarterback is their ability to get into the end zone from within their opponents’ red zone.

In terms of the yards per carry in a game, the USC run defense has been steadily improving over the past few years, even if they are giving up more yards per game. Last year, the run defense was pretty darn stingy on third down, and decent in their own red zone yardage-wise, although they did give up plenty of rushing touchdowns there. Also, if the alternating trend with ASU and USC stays true, then ASU should see a less than stellar yards per carry in their game in the Coliseum this year.

As far as the pass defense, USC was in the lower half of the conference in most of passing categories last year, including giving up the long pass completion. Even on third down, the Trojan defense allowed more completions, but really held teams to fewer yards. They were a little generous in their own red zone.

One thing has stayed true for the Trojan defense over the past few seasons is that they are tough when it comes to letting opponents convert third downs. They also seem to do better at picking off passes on third down. Wonder how that will play with a new signal caller for the Devils on critical third downs?

Source: and

About Gary Doran

Gary Doran

Gary graduated from ASU many years ago. After careers working in banking, finance and the financial administration of academic research funding, he is now interested in utilizing his passion for numbers towards two things he thoroughly loves; Arizona State University and college football. He is looking forward to finding the “stories” buried within the numbers on a football stat sheet. He has gone to ASU football games all the way back to the days of Frank Kush and the WAC. He has been married to an amazing ASU graduate for almost forty years, and they currently live in Ventura, CA. Although this may disqualify him from talking football, he and his wife enjoy the practice of yoga and dancing the Argentine Tango. Ole!

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