USC QB Cody Kessler, WR Marqise Lee expected to play vs. ASU

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Arizona State announced Wednesday that members of 1980's rock band Journey would perform "The Star-Spangled Banner" before Saturday night's game against USC. The Trojans, however, would gladly replace "Don't Stop Believin'" with an offense that does start completing.

USC is averaging just 163.5 passing yards per game, the main reason it ranks last in the Pac-12 in points and yards per game. Quarterback Cody Kessler is 46-of-72 passing for 537 yards and four touchdowns with two interceptions, neutering All-America wide receiver Marqise Lee (23 receptions for 293 yards and one touchdown). Kessler's accuracy has been scattershot, forcing Lee to try to do too much with his limited opportunities.

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Worse, both Kessler and Lee are dealing with injuries heading into the potentially season-defining road game against the Sun Devils.

Kessler bruised his right (throwing) hand in a 17-14 win over Utah State, completing only 5 of 14 throws for 58 yards in the second half after suffering the injury, while Lee hurt his ankle. Both are expected to play this week and believe better production is just around the corner.

"We will improve those downfield plays that we missed last week. We'll start connecting," Kessler told the Los Angeles Times.

Added Lee: "It takes time and Cody's getting on the right page. We're going to be all right as far as the passes that everybody wants me to catch."

Beyond issues with timing and familiarity, exacerbated by a shoulder injury that bothered Lee throughout fall camp and head coach Lane Kiffin's refusal to commit to a starting quarterback until the third week of the season, suspect pass protection has also been at the root of the offense's struggles. USC has allowed nine sacks and numerous pressures in four games after quarterback Matt Barkley was only sacked 17 times all last season.

Follow Dan Greenspan on Twitter @DanGreenspan.

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