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USC football: Trojans try to solve their identity against Arizona State

The USC Trojans have a lot of issues to fix entering Pac-12 South play, but they have the talent to make it work. We chat with Conquest Chronicles writers to learn more about their team.

Stephen Dunn

If you had to pick between the two, would you rather have good offense/bad defense or good defense/bad offense?

Luke Holthouse, Conquest Chronicles: I guess I would rather have a stacked defense because turnovers can be returned for offense whereas possessing the ball out of opponent's hands is much harder with today's no-huddle preference, but the real answer is that USC needs to show it can get past someone other than BC's defense to become Rose Bowl eligible, and maybe even bowl eligible.

Michael Luca, Conquest Chronicles: Good defense/bad offense every time. As we've witnessed thus far, a good defense creates field position and the capability to score on their own, and even a bad offense gets lucky against an inferior or mistake-making defense every now and then.

So long as USC minimizes turnovers (and hey - there are competent running backs next to Traveler in the stable), this Leonard Williams and company is legitimate.

Nick Selbe, Conquest Chronicles: On any given play, if the offense and defense both execute perfectly, the offense will always win. With that principle in mind, I'd take a great offense over a great defense. I think a bad defense is more likely to get lucky and have the opposing make mistakes than have a bad offense suddenly be able to sustain scoring drives.

Trevor Wong, Conquest Chronicles: I prefer a good defense because your defense can always generate points. As the cliché goes, defense wins championships, too.

4. If I were to describe USC as a dessert, it would be ________ because ___________________.

Luke Holthouse, Conquest Chronicles: Flourless dark chocolate cake. Very thick, rich and strong flavored like our defense, but relatively boring and not particularly sweet like our offense. Or maybe a better answer would be a cappuccino if ordering coffee after dinner counts as dessert.

Michael Luca, Conquest Chronicles: Dole Whip, because they do exactly that to the likes of Hawaii, but will always melt once left disinterested in the sun. As much as they trigger my gastritis, however, I return every autumn craving more. It's the gold to my cardinal.

Nick Selbe, Conquest Chronicles: Cake, because the frosting represents--ah, forget it, I have no idea how to answer this question.

Trevor Wong, Conquest Chronicles: If USC were a dessert, it would be a tub of ice cream. The longer you watch this team play (like leaving ice cream out too long), the more it'll make your heart just melt.

5. When you look at USC vs. Arizona State, what are the most crucial matchups you see to ensuring victory?

Luke Holthouse, Conquest Chronicles: If the USC offensive line steps up, the Trojans will cruise to victory. ASU had one of the top defensive lines last year but has struggled putting pressure on quarterbacks this year. If the line steps up and doesn't miss any assignments, ASU won't have much pressure on Cody Kessler and Trojans will score enough along with stout defense. I think the Trojans' magic number is 20 on offense, so the line would need to protect Kessler enough for three big bombs to Marqise Lee down the sideline and victory will be in hand.

Michael Luca, Conquest Chronicles: Another versatile spread attack that tore up Stanford's model defense with 417 yards despite losing 42-28? Shouldn't be a problem for USC as long as their defense does not deviate from what they have achieved so far this season.

It was Taylor Kelly's least efficient outing of 2013 (54.5 completion percentage and two of his three interceptions on the year), and workhouse running back Marion Grice posted a mere 2.9 YPC average, so the Trojans must keep their foot on the gas and rust the Sun Devils' brakes clean off.

Amidst all of the offensive ineptitude, Kessler and Marqise Lee are not 100 percent healthy, meaning that this will be another defensively charged game that Roger Goodell will turn off in favor of the Food Network.

Nick Selbe, Conquest Chronicles: The most crucial matchup is the USC offensive line against the ASU front seven. With Will Sutton, Carl Bradford and Co., the Sun Devils can make plays in opponents' backfields, so the Trojan O-line needs to keep Kessler upright and give Madden and Davis (and maybe Silas Redd) running lanes.

Trevor Wong, Conquest Chronicles: I don't even think the game will be solely decided by crucial matchups. If the Trojans can go on the road, limit the number of penalties (they currently rank 102nd in the nation out of 124 teams in penalties per game) and take care of the ball, they'll be in the game. But one important facet of the game to look at is controlling the tempo. USC needs to establish a running game on the road - and that starts with its offensive line finding some sort of cohesion - and move the chains consistently (i.e. converting on third downs).