USC football vs. Arizona preview: How the Trojans matchup with the Wildcats

USC football quarterback Kedon Slovis. (Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)
USC football quarterback Kedon Slovis. (Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports) /
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USC football head coach Clay Helton. (Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
USC football head coach Clay Helton. (Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports /

When special teams is on the field…

Everyone’s favorite section, special teams! Last week USC performed well in this phase of the game, with Ben Griffiths averaging 46 yards per punt, including one that would have been downed inside the 20, if not for Jack Jones muffing it to give the Trojans tremendous field position.

Meanwhile, Parker Lewis summoned up a perfect onside kick to contribute heavily to the victory and was awesome on kickoffs outside of one that he sent out of bounds. It remains to be seen if he can make a field goal, but I’m sure USC will put off seeing that as long as possible in favor of touchdowns.

The Trojans’ kick return game is a mess. St. Brown lacks the top-end speed to threaten a kick coverage team and Olaijah Griffin is a wild card that could score or leave the offense at the 10-yard line as he attempts to reverse field seven times. Look for St. Brown to return to that role this week.

For Arizona, they return kicker Lucas Havrisik who made just 10-of-17 field goals last season, and punter Kyle Ostendorp, who averaged 39.7 yards per punt in 2019.

At returner, the Wilcats will send out Tayvian Cunningham and his 19.7-yard kick return average on kickoffs, and backup running back Michael Wiley on punts.

Prediction for USC football vs Arizona

The key to the game on Saturday relates to the energy that each team is able to generate for themselves in an empty Arizona Stadium. U of A is playing its season opener, which gives them an edge in the energy department early on. Some of their players surely have the classic, “They didn’t recruit me” chip on their shoulders, and most teams will circle USC on their schedule any time they see the name.

Meanwhile, USC is coming off defeating the top contender in the Pac-12 South and could be looking ahead to snowy Utah next Saturday, so don’t be surprised if the Trojans come out flat.

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Despite those pitfalls, USC definitively has the talent edge. Gunnell and the Wildcats may look threatening on offense at times, and certainly won’t look as lifeless as they did with Tate under center, but the young quarterback will face pressure all afternoon, and his supporting cast simply isn’t good enough to score consistently against this Trojan defense.

Look for Slovis to attack the Wildcat secondary inside to St. Brown and London, as both go over 100 yards receiving for the second straight game, and for the Trojan offensive line to acquit itself much better this week as it gets a push for the running backs to go over 200 rushing yards.

Final Score: USC 45, Arizona 20

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