USC Trojans Football: 4 Reasons 'SC Will Roll Past Arizona Wildcats
The Wildcats are coming off a dominating win over Washington, who USC beat by just 10 points. Their quarterback, Matt Scott, has dual-threat ability and talented receivers to throw to. At running back, Ka'Deem Carey is coming into his own and proving why he has big-time ability even as a sophomore.
And the game is being played in Tuscon, where Wildcat fans are sure to be loud and rowdy in hopes that their team will knock off the mighty Trojans.
Meanwhile, USC is coming off a thumping of their own against a terrible Colorado Buffaloes team. But this season, they've been relatively unimpressive by their lofty standards. They've won several ugly games against mediocre Cal, Utah and Washington teams. And, of course, they lost to Stanford early in September.
We'll find out exactly what the 2012 Trojans are made of when Oregon comes to town on Nov. 3, but if they aren't careful, they'll be going into that game with two losses to their name.
Despite all indications that Tuscon will be rude to the Trojans on Saturday, here are four reasons why I expect USC to roll right on ahead toward their showdown with the Ducks.
1. Matt Barkley Has Found His Groove
Matt Barkley began the season as advertised, throwing for four touchdowns in a win over Hawaii and six in another victory at Syracuse.
But something changed after that. He was ineffective against a physical Stanford defense, throwing two interceptions and zero touchdowns.
He followed up that loss with decent performances against both Cal and Utah, but then disappeared again at Washington. Against a below-average Huskies' D, Barkley completed just 50 percent of his passes for 167 yards, to go along with one touchdown and one interception.
The Stanford performance can be attributed largely to an offensive line that gave him little time to throw. But we haven't seen the same Matt Barkley from last season, the one expected to compete for the Heisman trophy.
Until last week.
Granted, his six-touchdown performance came against a horrendous Colorado defense, but anytime you can complete 19 of 20 passes, you're having a special day.
I think Matt Barkley has finally found his groove, and it will show for the second consecutive week against a susceptible Wildcats secondary.
2. The Trojans Are Effective Through the Air and on the Ground
One of the reasons that the Trojans will find success in Arizona is that their offense is more than just Matt Barkley.
And that's going to be a serious problem for Rich Rodriguez and company.
Take a look at which teams the Wildcats have lost to this season. Their first defeat came at Oregon, which put up 49 points on Arizona. The following week, the Oregon State Beavers found success using Sean Mannion's arm and Storm Woods' legs in a high-scoring 38-35 win over the Wildcats.
They even allowed Stanford quarterback Josh Nunes (who leads a run-first attack) to throw for a career high 360 yards.
The point is that with Matt Barkley rounding into form and the Trojans running attack continuing to improve, the Wildcats are going to have their hands full on defense. Silas Redd already has two games this season in which he rushed for 150 yards or more. And Barkley has a plethora of targets in the passing game.
If USC was still struggling to find consistency on the ground, the Wildcats could probably drop back and try to stop Marqise Lee and Robert Woods from getting open. But with Redd and Curtis McNeal adding another dimension to the offense, USC should have no problem rolling past the Wildcats on Saturday.
3. USC Won't Look Past Arizona to Their Game Against Oregon
Ah, the trap game. A game in which the favored team overlooks the opponent due to a tougher matchup the following week.
And the scenario is perfect to trip up USC: They have confidence after demolishing Colorado, and they can climb back into the BCS title game picture with a win against the Ducks. But Arizona stands in the way, and the Trojans have been known to overlook games in the past.
But here's why I think this year will be different: the Trojans have already lost a game. They don't have the luxury of being able to overlook anyone, because one loss will take them out of the BCS picture altogether.
And they are led by seniors Matt Barkley and T.J. McDonald, who passed up the NFL draft so they could finish out their careers the right way. After the defeat to Stanford, the heartbreak was noticeable. Matt Barkley spoke in a hollow voice to reporters, and the team appeared stunned.
But they quickly vowed to get back to work and not let it happen again. Everything is on the line for USC—and not just this weekend but every weekend the rest of the year.
And despite this being the very definition of a trap game, I don't expect the Trojans to get caught this time.
4. Athletic Trojans D Can Keep Up with Arizona's Spread Offense
So far this season, only the Ducks have been truly effective in shutting down Rich Rodriguez and his spread attack for Arizona.
The reason for this, aside from Arizona doing everything they could not to score in the red zone, is that Oregon has a fast, athletic defense. USC can relate.
The Trojans are led by likely first-round draft pick T.J. McDonald at safety, stud sophomore Hayes Pullard at linebacker and sack machine Morgan Breslin on the defensive line. At all three levels, the Trojans have somebody who can dominate a game.
Arizona has had success against more physical defenses like Stanford's where their speed trumped power. But USC has the speed to hang with Matt Scott and his talented group of wide receivers.
The Wildcats are probably full of confidence after putting up 52 against Washington, but a different animal comes calling on Saturday. And I don't expect things will be quite as smooth against the Trojans defense.
The Ducks shutout of Arizona was a bit of a fluke. They played excellent defense but Arizona could have easily scored 20 points or more. Oregon would have never allowed enough points to make the game interesting, and I expect the same thing to happen with USC in town.
The Wildcats will have their moments, but it won't be nearly enough in the end.