USC vs. Arizona 2017: The matchup by the numbers

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 07: Ronald Jones II /

The Trojans take on the Wildcats in another pivotal Pac-12 South showdown this week. Here are some interesting statistics from USC vs. Arizona.

For the second straight weekend, the USC Trojans will headline Pac-12 after dark.

This week they will be taking on the 23nd-ranked Arizona Wildcats, their main rival for the Pac-12 South.

The good news is that USC controls its own destiny on the path to the conference title game. The bad news is that Arizona, much like last week’s opponent ASU, is surging right now.

Let’s take a look at some statistics from the matchup.

The All-Time Series

USC vs. Arizona is an extremely lopsided series, with the men of Troy leading the season series at 32-8.

After a two-game road trip, USC will finally return home to Coliseum, where they are 18-4 all-time against the Wildcats. The last time that USC faced off with Arizona in the Coliseum they posted a 38-30 victory as Ronald Jones II set a freshman record with 177 rushing yards.

Saturday is also the Homecoming game for the Trojans. USC has a record of 63-26-4 in Homecoming games going back to their inception in 1924.

Khalil Tate

USC fans may not remember Khalil Tate from the 48-14 drubbing of Arizona in 2016. The true freshman was just playing in his third collegiate game and struggling against a healthy USC defense. Tate finished with a meager seven completions for only 58 yards and one interception. He also carried the ball 14 times for 72 yards and a touchdown.

Fast forward to October 2017 and Tate has rushed for 840 yards and become one of the most dynamic quarterbacks in Pac-12 history. Tate has apparently settled into Rich Rodriguez’s spread rushing attack and exploded in four starts.

Tate started off his historic month with a 327-yard, four-rushing-touchdown performance on the road against Colorado. Then after the 45-42 win over the Buffaloes, Tate then led the Wildcats to a 47-30 victory over UCLA. He tallied 230 yards and two touchdowns on the ground against the Bruins. Then in a road tilt against the Cal Bears, he went for 137 and a touchdown. Finally, he went for 146 yards and touchdown against No. 25 Washington State.

Tate is going to be a handful for an injury-riddled USC defense. Not only did the Wildcat signal caller rush for more than 800 yards in October, he did so on only 59 carries. Tate’s 14.23 yard per carrying average is amazing. The only thing more shocking is that in each game in October he had at least one 71-plus yard run, including an 82-yard run against Washington State.

Another Pac-12 South Reckoning?

Last week in Tempe USC knocked the shine off of Arizona State’s impressive upsets of Washington and Utah. This week, Arizona comes in looking unstoppable on offense and a major concern for USC.

But will the Arizona defense be able to handle the USC offense? Could USC’s offense be the best defense for the Trojans? The numbers suggest it could be.

Arizona is currently ranked 94 in DFEI which is an advanced statistic measuring defensive efficiency for the season, adjusted for strength of schedule. Despite issues with turnovers and complaints about playcalling, USC’s offense is ranked 12 in OFEI, or an advanced statistic measuring offensive efficiency, adjusted for strength of schedule.

More importantly, Arizona is 93 in Defensive First Down Rate (DFD) and 91st in Defensive Touchdown Rate After First Down (DTF). DFD is the stat that tracks the percentage of opponent offensive drives that result in a touchdown or at least one first down. DTF is the percentage of touchdowns surrendered on an opponent’s offensive drives that earn at least one first down.

What does that mean? Arizona’s opponents have been held to three-and-outs just 25.3 percent of the time. And when the opposing offense achieves at least one first down in a drive, they score a touchdown 56.5 percent of the time.

More from Reign of Troy

On the flip side, USC is ranked 17in Offensive First Down Rate (OFD). The Trojans achieve a first down on 79 percent of drives.

In layman’s terms, USC is fairly good at moving the ball offensively and Arizona is fairly bad at stopping teams from scoring as they move the ball.

The key stat though is that USC ranks 119th in Turnover Rate, which is the percentage of offensive drives that end with an interception or fumble. The Trojans have seen 17.1 percent of their drives result in a giveaway.

Turnovers have been a thorn in USC’s side all season. Though given the rest of the numbers, USC should be able to move the ball well on Arizona, and if they don’t turn it over, they should have a lot of success.

Fast Facts

  • USC is currently on a 14-game home winning streak, which is third in the nation behind Navy’s 17 wins and Alabama’s 16.
  • Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate has been named the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week four consecutive weeks. He is the first player in history to do so.
  • Thirteen Trojan starters have missed games due to injury this season. Among those is outside linebacker Porter Gustin who suffered a setback and will miss the Arizona game.
  • Arizona leads all FBS teams with 36 offensive plays of at least 30 yards this season.