USC Football: Trojans Will Upset the Favored Arizona Wildcats

Use your ← → (arrow) keys to browse more stories
USC Football: Trojans Will Upset the Favored Arizona Wildcats
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Nick Foles gets hammered by USC defense in 2009 game

The University of Southern California Trojans (6-3, 3-3 Pac-10) beat the Arizona State Sun Devils last week 34-33 in a crazy game that was predictable only in the inconsistency of both teams.

The Arizona Wildcats (No. 18*) (7-2, 4-2 Pac-10) were trounced by the Stanford Cardinal (No. 6*) 42-17 in a loss that essentially ended its Pac-10 title hopes.

USC is hosted by Arizona this Saturday, Nov. 13, at 8 p.m. EST in Tucson.  The Wildcats are currently five-point favorites, after opening at 5.5 points.

The Trojans have been inconsistent this year often showing a high-octane offense that was countered by a leaky defense.  USC ranks 14th in both total offense (470.8 ypg) and scoring (36.4 ppg), but only 97th in total defense (423.9 ypg) and 76th in scoring defense (28.4 ppg).

Except for the Stanford game, the Wildcats have been a solid offensive team, averaging 30.9 points while ranking 19th in total offense at 450.6 yards per game.

Head coach Mike Stoops said, “We’re still a good football team, still a top-20 team.  There’s a lot of possibilities out there, one game won’t make or break us either way.”

That is pretty optimistic considering Arizona is two full games behind Oregon Ducks (No. 1*) with three games remaining including Oregon.

Arizona must do better against USC after giving up 516 yards to Stanford, and only scoring 17 points. 

Stoops is counting on quarterback Nick Foles (1,848 yards, 10 TD, 6 INT) to be sharper for his second game after a two-game absence due to injury, and tailback Nic Grigsby (423 yards, 8 TD) close to 100 percent after getting only one carry against Stanford due to a high ankle sprain.

USC head coach Lane Kiffin’s theme this week is USC hasn’t beaten a ranked team, so this is last chance to get that done.  USC is also 0-3 against teams that beat the Trojans a year ago, so this is also the last chance for revenge.

Trojan quarterback Matt Barkley (2,348 yards, 24 TD, 8 INT) had 20 touchdown passes and only four interceptions two games ago, but now he has 24 and eight.  Kiffin is looking for consistency, “He just gets so anxious to make plays at times…he’s just not as accurate.”

Barkley is only concerned about one play in the ASU game when he threw an interception in the end zone on first down from the nine yard line after a USC blocked punt.  Barkley said, “That was a stupid play, a throw I shouldn’t have made…a bad throw.”

But, it was very similar to his interception at Washington State on a first-down play after a turnover when he threw an interception.  Kiffin recognizes that Barkley can be very consistent, “He has great streaks where he goes 120 passes without an interception.”

The area of most improvement for the USC offense is third down conversions, which dropped from 53 percent in the first seven games to only 34 percent in the past two games.

So, USC needs a consistent game from Barkley and the USC offense.  The Trojan defense has improved even though it gives up too many long plays.

The USC defense has been most effective in games against the California Golden Bears and ASU when they played a significant amount of man-to-man coverage and blitzes.

Barkley said the Trojans are seeking to recapture the November glory of the Pete Carroll era with 28 consecutive wins until the Stanford loss last season.  He said, “It’s important for our team to finish.  We’ve got this theme of going undefeated in November.  We’re 1-0, and we’re trying to be 1-0 again this week.”

The Trojans are relatively healthy considering the lower number of scholarship players than other teams, and nine games completed. 

Several players are injured but they are expected to be well enough to play effectively against the Wildcats.  This includes receiver Robert Woods, running back Marc Tyler (626 yards, 8 TD), starting offensive tackles Matt Kalil and Tyron Smith and safety Jawanza Starling.

Running back C.J. Gable had touchdown runs of 30 and 35 yards at Tuesday's practice.  Kiffin noticed, saying that the running back start will go to the player who’s had the best week of practice, and it could be Gable noting that he is healthy for the first time.

Arizona ended a seven-game losing streak to USC with last year’s win, and the Trojans, who lead the all-time series 26-7, have won four straight in Tucson. 

However, this is a different USC team after dealing with NCAA sanctions that depleted scholarship players who transferred or dropped their commitments, and the transition of a new coaching staff.

Last week, the USC special teams came through in the fourth quarter to beat ASU.  On paper, USC has a slightly better offense than Arizona, and the Wildcats have a much better defense.  But, special teams and turnovers may be the deciding factor again in the USC-Arizona game.

Here are average game statistics for both teams:

     Category

   USC

  Ranking

  Arizona

  Ranking

Rushing Offense (Yards)

   199.0

   23

   155.8

   57

Passing Offense (Yards)

   271.8

   22

   294.8

   15

Total Offense (Yards)

   470.8

   14

   450.6

   19

Scoring Offense (Points)

    36.4

   14

    30.9

   42

Passing Efficiency (%)

   150.6

   23

   148.7

   29

Sacks allowed (Number)

     1.44

   36

     2.44

   85

Rushing Defense (Yards)

   147.4

   56

   102.7

   10

Pass Defense (Yards)

   276.4

  114

   209.0

   49

Total Defense (Yards)

   423.9

   97

   311.7

   20

Scoring Defense (Points)

    28.4

   76

    17.4

   10

Pass Efficiency Defense (%)

   138.9

   92

   125.6

   60

Sacks (Number)

     2.22

  T-41

     3.00

    6

Tackles for Loss (Number)

     6.4

   39

     7.0

   21

Net Punting (Yards/Punt)

    38.4

   30

    34.3

   91

Punt Returns  (Yards)

    17.6

    6

     6.4

   88

Kickoff Returns (Yards)

    23.7

   29

    26.9

    3

Turnover Margin

      .11

  T-50

     .22

   43

 

The Trojans need to start well against the Wildcats to keep the crowd under control, and avoid a catch-up scenario that the Arizona offense and defense will capitalize on.

This will require USC to establish a running game against the tough Arizona defense, complimented by an effective passing attack.  Special teams must help put the Trojans in good field position.  USC must have a positive turnover margin.

Harry How/Getty Images
Allen Bradford has 571 yards with 7.4 yards per carry average

Arizona is the favorite for good reason.  Except for the Stanford and Oregon State games, they have been consistently good on both sides of the ball. 

However, while USC has struggled with different parts of its game, the Trojans have found a way to be competitive in every game.  They play hard and have the talent to win.  USC will have to win the fourth quarter in this game, and they are determined to finish strong.

So, I’m predicting a close game, but USC upsets Arizona and wins 31-27.

The Pac-12 released the revised football schedule for 2011, so here is the challenging USC schedule:

  • Sat., Sept. 3: vs. Minnesota
  • Sat., Sept. 10: vs. Utah
  • Sat., Sept. 17: vs. Syracuse
  • Sat., Sept. 24: at Arizona State
  • Sat., Oct. 1: vs. Arizona
  • Thurs., Oct. 13: at California
  • Sat., Oct. 22: at Notre Dame
  • Sat., Oct. 29: vs. Stanford
  • Sat., Nov. 5: at Colorado
  • Sat., Nov. 12: vs. Washington
  • Sat., Nov. 19: at Oregon
  • Sat., Nov. 26: vs. UCLA
  • Sat., Dec. 3: Pac-12 Championship Game (if qualify and NCAA allows)

The series with the Oregon Ducks and Washington schools will work on a two-year rotating basis. So USC will play Washington Huskies and Oregon in 2011-12 and 2015-16, and Oregon State Beavers and Washington State Cougars in 2013-14 and 2017-18. 

The Trojans bye in Week 2 has been replaced with its first conference game against Utah Utes and then a Thursday game, at California Golden Bears on Oct. 13.  USC has three games that may be cold: at Notre Dame Fighting Irish (Oct. 22), at Colorado Buffaloes (Nov. 5) and at Oregon (Nov. 19).

 

* Week 11 BCS Ranking

Load More Stories

Follow USC Football from B/R on Facebook

Follow USC Football from B/R on Facebook and get the latest updates straight to your newsfeed!

Out of Bounds

USC Football

Subscribe Now

We will never share your email address

Thanks for signing up.