USC Facing a Must-Win Situation at Arizona, Following ASU Loss


The USC Trojans had a chance on Saturday night to set themselves up for full control of the Pac-12 South division.

They were seven seconds away from a perfect 3-0 start to the Pac-12 season. That would’ve likely come with a complimentary ranking in the AP’s Top 15.

They were one play short of heading to Tucson for of a battle of the conference’s only two unbeatens. A win there would presumably find the Trojans re-emerging on the national stage with absolute control of their own destiny.

Arizona State quarterback Mike Bercovici had different ideas.

The mouth that roared in the lead up to the game, put his money where his mouth is and strapped a gas mask on the Trojans’ ambitious hopes.

A 3-3 record would be a total disaster for USC after starting the year 2-0, with a road win over Stanford.

His 46-yard Hail Mary pass to Jaelen Strong as time expired snuffed out any shot of a playoff berth and puts USC in what is now a precarious position in the division.

They’ll need help to get to Santa Clara for the Pac-12 Championship Game.

Troy now sits at 3-2 through a handul of games, while staring at a 3-3 overall record square in the face against an undefeated Arizona team that excels in all of the areas the Trojans struggle in. Not to mention quarterback Anu Solomon, who is molded into the perfect ‘USC killer’ prototype that Tony Rice, Ell Roberson and Vince Young personified.

A 3-3 record would be a total disaster for USC after starting the year 2-0, with a road win over Stanford.

And yet for all of the Trojans’ struggles, a loss next week and a 3-3 record might be better than they deserve, and at worse, indicative of how they’ve started the season. With plenty of inconsistency and let downs, to go with brief flashes of what could be a really good team but isn’t quite there.

The offense hasn’t lived up to billing, and the defense has now been exploited twice, two very different ways. Next week could be a third occasion.

Needless to say, a loss to Arizona would make winning the Pac-12 South borderline impossible. And while his job isn’t exactly in peril, losing three out of four games would put considerable pressure on head coach Steve Sarkisian and make all but one of the final six games a toss-up.

More from Reign of Troy

If USC couldn’t breeze past Boston College, close out Arizona State or beat Arizona on the road, how can they be expected to go into Utah and take care of business? Will they find a way to stop the passing attacks of Washington State or Cal?

A 3-3 record makes everyone doubt everything, taking the Trojans from spoon-deep in a can of worms, to half-charred in a dumpster fire.

They can’t let that happen.

Cody Kessler, who struggled on Saturday despite semi-decent numbers, needs to re-assert himself as the sound game manager he is.

Peter McBride, the Trojans’ backup long snapper that started against ASU, can’t be a liability if Zach Smith can’t go.

And of course, the entire USC secondary can’t afford another awful fourth quarter, as Arizona knows all about chucking the ball around late in games.

Sarkisian’s Trojans cannot lose, and yet they can’t play as if they’re trying to avoid it, either.

USC is in a must-win spot next week in Tuscon, and Arizona is the last team any team in the conference wants to face with their back against the wall.

A win would begin the excavation back towards the top of the division.

A win would go a long way in ensuring these Trojans won’t parlay their fourth quarter collapse into a season-long free fall.

A win shouldn’t be out of reach for the USC team that these Trojans aspire to be, regardless of how sensational Arizona can be.

A win is how a good team rebounds.