USC faces the re-energized Arizona Wildcats Saturday afternoon in Tucson. Arizona is playing under first-year head coach Rich Rodriguez and is more dangerous than their 4-3 overall, 1-3 Pac-12 record suggests.
For one thing, Arizona QB Matt Scott happens to lead the Pac-12 in passing yards per game with 336.4, and last weekend he threw for 256 yards and four touchdowns while also rushing for 43 yards and another touchdown in the Wildcats win over Washington.
Barkley, as I’ve written this week, was 19-of-20 for 298 yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions versus Colorado, with the sole incompletion coming on a drop by Curtis McNeal. It was the best QB performance in the history of the Pac-12 and the most efficient in the country this season. And yes, that includes Geno Smith’s games to date.
Scott has been quick to adopt RichRod’s signature offense and that has helped him and his Wildcat offense put up decent stats, despite their record.
Both Barkley and Scott are seniors and will meet for the first time as NCAA players on Saturday. Barkley, a four-year starter, has a different mission for his team than Scott, a first-year starter does. USC dreams of National Championships, Heismans, Rose Bowls and other national accolades. Arizona would just like to get to a Rose Bowl for the first time in school history. In fact, Arizona is the only current member of the original Pac-10 members to never play in a Rose Bowl.
The danger comes, of course, in USC overlooking the Wildcats and their 4-3 record with the Oregon Ducks looming on the Trojans’ schedule the following weekend.
That would be a critical mistake and one I’d personally like to think Lane Kiffin, Matt Barkley and the Trojans are too smart to fall prey to. Not that they haven’t fallen into this trap before.
Let’s take a look at some interesting stats involving the Trojans and Wildcats heading into the 36th matchup between the two programs.
FUN FACTS & STATS
USC is going after program victory No. 800 in Tucson. This is the Trojans’ last game outside of Los Angeles this season—which is good. This schedule has been strange, with only three home games this season going into November. (Also, my liver and wallet fear for November.)
USC is 28-7 in the series with Arizona for an 80 percent winning percentage. The Trojans have won nine of the past 10 and the past five games in Tucson. The sole loss in the past decade came in 2009.
The Trojans won the 2011 matchup between these two programs 48-41. The Trojans have never scored less than seven points versus the Wildcats and have shut them out four times.
Arizona is 105th in the nation in red zone offense while USC is 17th. Conversely, Arizona leads the nation in first downs per game with 31.1. USC is 65th in the nation in preventing first downs, as they gave up 25 to woeful Colorado.
All six of USC’s 2012 victories have been decided by double digits.
In the 2011 contest between these two programs, Matt Barkley set a USC passing and total offense record. Frankly, Arizona’s defense is worse this year, so look for Barkley to light it up at Wildcat Stadium.
Finally, as dynamic a QB as Scott is, he can’t compare to Barkley who is fourth in the nation in TD passes, 13th in passer rating and 20th in yards per attempt.
Look for the Trojans to roll to a relatively easy victory in the desert Saturday afternoon.