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USC vs. Arizona
Betting Line: Arizona -4.5 o/u 59
The 2010 season hasn't been kind to the USC Trojans. Yeah, they have a solid 6-3 record, but they are playing merely for pride due to a post season ban. They are 2-3 in their last 5 games with losses to Oregon, Washington, and Stanford. 2 of those 3 were winnable games. They enter this weeks matchup against Arizona after winning a squeaker 34-33 against Arizona State. The Trojans will find the 7-2 Wildcats a much tougher opponent than the Sun Devils. The Wildcats suffered a shellacking at the hands of Stanford last week, but returning home means they should play much better. Let's take a look at how these teams stack up against each other!
Regular readers of this site know that we have been big proponents of USC's sophomore QB Matt Barkley. He's got all the talent in the world and then some. He was a bit rocky last week against Arizona State passing for 215 yards, 3 Tds, and 2 INTs. If they hadn't slipped by, everyone would be blaming him. We can expect a better game this week. On the year Barkley has 2,348 yards and 24 Tds. He's got plenty of time to progress. He proved during his freshman campaign that he can win on the road by taking down Ohio State in the Horseshoe, so don't expect this Pacific-10 road game to faze him. Barkley is cool as a cucumber.
RB Marc Tyler is the second most important skill player in the offense. He has rushed for 626 yards and 8 Tds this year. Although the Trojans lost to Oregon, he played a great game by finding the end zone twice.
Arizona QB Nick Foles missed the two games before Stanford, but appears to be A-OK to play this week against USC. His participation is VERY important for the 15th ranked pass offense in the FBS. Without him, they don't stand a chance. Foles isn't a TD machine with 10 Tds and 1,848 yards, but he keeps mistakes to a minimum. Junior WR Juron Criner leads the team in Tds and yards with 884 yards and 6 Tds. He is one of the best in the Pac-10.
Rbs Nick Gringsby and Keola Antolin have combined for 952 yards and 15 Tds. This offense will be looking to come out and play a big game after being held to 17 points last week. A healthy combination of Foles throwing the rock, and Gringsby and Antolin pounding it up the middle should keep the suspect Trojans defense on their toes. If Foles, Grinbsby, Antolin, and Criner are all clicking the Trojans wont stand a chance.
The Arizona Wildcats rank a rock solid 10th in the FBS in Points Against at 17.4 PPG. Aside from a 44 point aberration against Stanford, the largest amount of points they have allowed in 2010 in 27. This is a defense that does a great job against the run. They have allowed only 3 teams to gain in excess of 100 yards on the ground this year. They are giving up a paltry 303 yards per game in home games. USC's high powered offense poses a unique challenge, but we can expect the Wildcats to answer the bell at home. Question is, how long will they contain USC before they break out?
On average, the Trojans are giving up 28.4 PPG. That ranks them at 76th in the FBS. They shut down California by allowing them to score just 14 points, but in their past 5 games every opponent has lit the board up for at least 30 points. Oregon got them for 53, and Stanford racked up 37. Arizona isn't as strong as those teams, but they have a lot to lose and enter this game after a poor showing against Stanford. USC will have to play their best football to contain the Wildcats. With so many athletes on defense it could be a matter of time before they wake up, but until they do we should be wary of them.
Earlier this decade we saw USC plaster Arizona regularly. Then, in 2007 and 2008, with Mike Stoops in his 2nd and 3rd year at the helm. the Wildcats lost a pair of games by a touchdown, before finally getting over the hump last season by beating USC, at USC, by a score of 21-17.
People talk about USC football these days as if they are talking about a team in shambles. That's only as result of how good this team has been for so long. Yet, in reality, this USC team has one bad loss all year, and that was the beating they took against Oregon. Otherwise, their other two losses were by a combined 3 points, and that includes their loss to offensive powerhouse Stanford, a team that outclassed this Arizona team last week 42-17.
There is simply nothing here to indicate this game is anything but a tossup. That being the case, we have to take any points available, which in this case, is +4.5. This isn't a strong call, but we'll side with USC here. USC +4.5