Even though it's only human nature for No. 9 USC to start looking ahead toward a potentially massive clash with No. 4 Oregon next week, the Trojans can't afford to overlook Arizona. The Wildcats are a dangerous team despite their unimpressive record.
USC followed its loss to Stanford with four straight victories to move back up the polls, earning the Pac-12 power a spot in the Top 10 of the initial BCS rankings. The Trojans still haven't reached their peak, but they are getting closer every week.
The Wildcats lost three consecutive games to ranked opponents before finally getting back on track last week by blowing out Washington, a team that kept it close with USC. The team's high-voltage offense will be a good test for the Trojans.
Fans should buckle their seat belts because this one figures to be a wild ride from start to finish. Here's a look at all the vital viewing information for Saturday's game followed by some predictions.
Where: Arizona Stadium in Tucson, Ariz.
When: Saturday, Oct. 27 at 3:30 p.m. ET
Watch: ABC or ESPN2 (regional)
Live Stream: ESPN3.com
Spread: USC -6.5 (Vegas Insider)
It's almost like the oddsmakers know what they're doing because this certainly has the feel of a one-score game. USC is the more talented team overall, but Arizona's offense should ensure it doesn't turn into a blowout.
Although beating Colorado last week wasn't exactly a staggering feat by the Trojans given the Buffaloes' struggles, being able to put together their most complete offensive performance of the season was a key confidence builder heading into a tough stretch.
Due to that, the Trojans should be able to cover the spread. Don't be surprised if this is one of those games where the spread winner isn't decided until the final play, but Matt Barkley and Co. will do enough to pull it out.
Over/Under: 65.5 (Vegas Insider)
Since the game is expected to be an old-fashioned shootout, the high line should be a surprise. After all, both teams topped the 50-point mark in victories last week and should be able to track up the points again on Saturday.
That's because both teams have plenty of talent at every offensive position. Whether it's Barkley and Matt Scott, Silas Redd and Ka'Deem Carey or Marqise Lee and Austin Hill, there's no shortage of firepower on either side. And the lists go on.
Thanks to all of those stars, over is the wise pick despite the inflated line. USC and Arizona should be able to score almost at will and, since the game should also be close, there will be no taking the foot off the gas until the final whistle.
Key Injuries (via USA Today)
USC: Kevon Seymour (questionable, undisclosed) and Randall Telfer (probable, ankle)
Arizona: Johnny Jackson (questionable, ankle) and Terrence Miller (questionable, shoulder)
It's a tricky game for USC. While a win really wouldn't do much in terms of helping the Trojans move up the BCS rankings, a loss would cause them to have a significant slide. However, unlike most games like that, the opponent is actually capable of pulling off an upset.
USC still has a chance to make a major move with big games against Oregon and Notre Dame coming up before season's end, but it has to take care of games like this one to make those games matter. So there's a lot on the line.
On the flip side, Arizona's losing streak put a serious dent in its chances of cracking the rankings, but a victory over USC would put the Wildcats back on the right path.
Keys to USC Win
As illustrated against Colorado, it's crucial for the Trojans to find balance on offense. They used 25 passing plays and 23 rushing plays to keep the struggling Buffaloes defense off balance and it resulted in an extremely efficient performance.
It starts by establishing the ground game with Redd, Curtis McNeal and D.J. Morgan. Redd should get a bulk of the workload, but all three are capable of handling the load. The more success they have, the easier Barkley's job becomes.
On defense, it's all about avoiding the big plays. Arizona will be able to move the ball. The Trojans just have to make sure they aren't able to connect on the long scoring plays that change momentum and fuel an upset bid.
Keys to Arizona Win
The most important thing for the Wildcats is finding way to get stops. They don't need a bunch of them in order to win the shootout, but in their three losses to ranked teams they gave up an average of nearly 50 points per game.
Getting pressure on Barkley is the most effective way to slow down USC. He was allowed to stand tall in the pocket last week and completed all but one of his 20 passes along with six touchdowns. If the Wildcats don't hit him, he'll tear their defense to shreds.
Arizona shouldn't change anything on offense. The unit is good enough to keep pace with the Trojans, so there's no reason to change their approach. Let Scott and Carey work their magic and hope the defense makes enough stops.
USC 38, Arizona 31
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