Gameday Preview: USC vs. Arizona

Original photographs by Kirby Lee and Matt Kartozian, US PRESSWIRE. Photoshopped by Michael Castillo, Reign Of Troy.

USC Trojans at Arizona Wildcats

Arizona Stadium | Tucson, Arizona
12:30 PM Pacific | ABC

All-time Series: USC leads 28-7
Last meeting: USC 48, Arizona 41 in 2011

Going into the season, everyone, including us, said that USC’s trip to Salt Lake City to play Utah on a Thursday night was the ultimate trap game. The Trojans went there and endured against a Utes team that many expected more from this season. Today, looking at the schedule and in the spirit of the election season, we’re flip-flopping our position and saying that Arizona is the trap game that Lane Kiffin should be worried about.

With Oregon coming up next week in the game that everyone has looked forward to since last season ended, it’s easy to see the possibility of USC looking ahead to the Ducks. Meanwhile, Arizona is the best three-loss team in the country having lost to three ranked teams, while totaling 83 points in consecutive weeks against the 18th ranked team in the country. They have an offense every bit as versatile as Oregon, yet with a defense that leaves much to be desired, we could be in store for a high scoring affair.

Given the proximity to the O.K. Corral and as Vin Sculy would say…’High noon? Perfect time for a shootout’.

Gameday links

When Arizona has the ball…

In just about every offensive category, the Cats are tit for tat with Oregon and they’ll serve as the perfect appetizer for the Trojans’ defense before the November 3rd showdown at the Coliseum. But by no means that does make the Wildcats less of a challenge for the Trojans, especially with the Zona Zoo ramped up for their season’s biggest home tilt. For the Wildcats, it all starts in the passing game, where Matt Scott has really impressed in his first year as a starter. Scott, a senior out of Corona Centennial, has been a perfect fit for Rich Rod’s offense as a dual-threat quarterback, even though he’s a far better passer than Pat White was at West Virginia. Wideouts Austin Hill and Dan Buckner are a solid one-two combo at the top of the stat sheet for the Wildcats, and they bring different styles to the Cats’ passing attack. Hill is your prototypical Wes Welker slot receiver, while Buckner is the traditional do-it-all Arizona receiver that they’ve put out for years.Running back Kadeem Carey has been a big surprise in the conference, entering the upper echelon of the Pac-12′s elite runners including UCLA’s Johnathan Franklin and Stanford’s Stepfan Taylor. Through seven games, Carey has 842 rushing yards and his 11 touchdowns are second only to Oregon’s Kenjon Barner in the conference. For more on Arizona’s offense, click here.

After three consecutive weeks of piling up the defensive stats against the Pac-12’s weakest offenses, the Trojans will have their work cut out for them as they head into Tucson to face the Wildcats.  Zona leads the conference in yards per game with 548.7 yards each contest and are a perfect preview for the vaunted Oregon offense that the Trojans will face next week at the Coliseum. The Trojans are in a rhythm on defense however, sitting in third in the Pac-12 in total defense and just 3.20 yards per carry, while being third in the nation in sacks. To stop Arizona, they’ll have to use that the penetration they’ve had from the defensive line all season long, getting to the mesh point and disrupting the zone read option deployed by Rich Rod. Monte Kiffin’s defense was built for the task with undersized and speedy linebackers, and on the strongside is Dion Bailey who is second in the conference in interceptions. If the Trojans can keep up their bend but don’t break defense going and tighten up in the red zone, they could dictate the game just like Oregon did against Arizona.

Arizona’s Projected Offensive Starters:
WR Dan Buckner #4
SLOT Richard Morrison #8
LT Mickey Baucus #68
LG Chris Putton #62
C Kyle Quinn #76
RG Trace Biskin #72
RT Fabbians Ebbele #73
TE Drew Robinson #87
QB Matt Scott #10
RB Ka’Deem Carey #25
FB Taimi Tutogi #31
SLOT Austin Hill #29
WR Terrence Miller #18
Note: Arizona lists 13 starters on their depth chart.

USC’s Projected Defensive Starters
DE Wes Horton #96 or Greg Townsend Jr. #93
DT George Uko #90
NT Antwaun Woods #99
DE Morgan Breslin #91
WLB Hayes Pullard #10
MLB Lamar Dawson #55
SLB Dion Bailey #18
CB Nickell Robey #21
SS Jawanza Starling #29
FS T.J. McDonald #7
CB Torin Harris #4 or Josh Shaw #26

When USC has the ball…

The Trojans set about 284 records last week at the Coliseum, most notably the career touchdown passes record set by quarterback Matt Barkley. The big day and the records came against lowly Colorado and while the Trojans won’t be tested significantly more by Arizona, they won’t be able to get first downs just by breathing as they did a week ago. Marqise Lee and Robert Woods had big games last week and while Lee is putting together a season worthy of some Heisman pub, today’s game on national television makes it a showcase game for the USC offense. The Trojans lead the Pac-12 in yards per play and they’ve gone to great lengths through the first seven games to show that the passing game and the running game can dominate games when they dedicate themselves to the cause. They just haven’t been able to put it all together and have a balanced offense yet, with the Utah game being the possible exception. Going forward, they’ll have to mix it up on offense, but is today the day? We’ll see. Last time the Trojans were on the road, Kiffin dialed back the offense, opting to play an ultra-conservative game to preserve his team’s health. With Oregon coming up next week, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him repeat the gameplan seen at Washington.

Arizona deploys an interesting 3-3-5 stack defense that uses just one defensive end has two extra safeties lined up over the linebackers. The secondary-heavy defense has limited the Cats’ pass rush, as they rank 11th in the conference in sacks with just 10 in seven games. Plus, despite having eight guys off the line of scrimmage, they’re averaging just one interception per game (USC averages two). The secondary relies heavily on home run hitter corner Shaq Richardson, while middle linebacker Jake Fischer leads the conference in tackles with 67. If the Cats want to have a serious shot at being the Trojans, they’ll have to contain USC’s attack while outlasting them at the same time. Arizona’s defense wore out against Oregon as evident with five second half touchdowns, and they allowed game-winning and/or game-tying drives to Oregon State and Stanford on consecutive weeks.

USC’s Projected Offensive Starters
WR Robert Woods #2
TE Xavier Grimble #86 or Randall Telfer #82
LT Aundrey Walker #70 and Max Tuerk #75
LG Marcus Martin #66 or Abe Markowitz #50
C Khaled Holmes #78
RG John Martinez #59
RT Kevin Graf #77
WR Marqise Lee #9
QB Matt Barkley #7
RB Silas Redd #25 or Curtis McNeal #22
FB Soma Vainuku #31

Arizona’s Projected Defensive Starters:
DE Justin Washington #43
NT Sione Tuihalamaka #91
DT Dan Pettinato #90
SLB Marquis Flowers #2
MLB Jack Fischer #33
SPUR Tra’Mayne Boudurant #21
BANDIT Jared Tevis #38
CB Shaq Richardson #5 or Derrick Rainey #17
CB Jonathan McKnight #6
FS Jourdon Grandon #26

USC Trojans Injury Report

  • Starting left tackle Aundrey Walker left last week’s game with an apparent upper body injury and he’s been listed as questionable/doubtful as a result. Freshman Max Tuerk appears to be ready to make the start and by doing so he would become the first USC true freshman to ever start at left tackle.
  • Cody Temple, Brian Baucham and Devon Kennard were officially ruled out for the season earlier this week by head coach Lane Kiffin.
  • Dion Bailey missed the second half vs. Colorado, but he’s expected to start at strongside linebacker.
  • According to Pedro Moura of ESPN LA, Randall Telfer expects to play today. He’s missed the last two games and hasn’t seen the field since leaving the Utah game with a high-ankle sprain.

Arizona Wildcats Injury Report

  • Receiver Johnny Jackson is expected to play for Arizona, according to reports from SBN Nation Arizona. He had nine catches in the second quarter of the game at Stanford on October 6.
  • Listed as questionable are safety Jared Tevis(ankle), defensive end Kirifi Taula (shoulder) and guard Trace Biskin(toe).
  • Center Kyle Quinn has been spotted in a walking boot this week in Tucson, and is listed as questionable.
  • Receiver Terrence Miller will not play due to an ankle injury for Arizona, according to the Tucson Citizen.
  • Earlier this week, Arizona’s senior defensive end Dominique Austin was ruled out for the remainder of the season with a foot injury. He had missed the two previous games against Stanford and Washington.

Game Notes

  • With a win in Tucson today, the Trojans would notch the program’s 800th all-time win. The 700th win was against Stanford back in 2003. USC is 27 wins behind Oklahoma for 8th on the all-time list, while Michigan’s 900th win last week against Michigan State extended their record in college football.
  • The Trojans have won five straight games at Arizona, beginning with a thrilling victory in 2001 on the back of a late Kris Richard interception to win it for USC.  That game started a five-year stretch in which the Trojans lost just five games, while winning two National Championships. The last time USC lost to an unranked Arizona team in Tucson was 1993.
  • USC is 61-24 all-time against schools with names starting with the letter ‘A’. The only team the Trojans have a losing record to? You guessed it: Alabama.
  • Matt Barkley is 2-1 against Arizona in his career and has won two in a row. Last season, Barkley and then-QB Nick Foles putting a passing clinic as they combined for 893 passing yards. Barkley’s 468 set a school record, surpassing Carson Palmer’s 448 against Oregon in 2002.
  • Calling the game today for ESPN on ABC is Joe Tessitore and Matt Millen. Tessitore is the voice of upsets for ESPN and it’s worth noting that he called USC’s last loss in the state of Arizona, which came to Arizona State last September in Tempe.

Tags: Arizona Wildcats Football USC Trojans

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