When Lincoln Riley came to USC in late November of 2021, USC’s national outlook instantly changed. Within that larger context, the stakes attached to USC’s various 2022 games instantly changed as well.
However, in December of last year, it seemed that the Trojans’ game against Arizona State was going to be a big and defining moment in the 2022 season. Jayden Daniels hadn’t transferred out of Tempe. Eric Gentry had not transferred from ASU to USC. Jermayne Lole had not transferred out of the Sun Devil program. Arizona State had not been gutted by transfer departures and continued fallout from the COVID-19 recruiting scandal which is crushing the program. Arizona State also lagged behind in the world of NIL donor collectives, which is one of the underlying reasons the Sun Devils have lost so much ground.
Compared to last December, the stature of the USC-ASU game in 2022 has fallen off a cliff. What once seemed like an important divisional battle (especially since the Pac-12 had not yet changed its conference championship game format to de-emphasize divisional results) now feels like a USC blowout which will not garner significant national interest.
We talked about this with Michelle Gardner of the Arizona Republic on Mark Rogers’ show at The Voice of College Football: