USC vs. Arizona Preview

Stephen Dunn

The Trojans ride a modest four-game winning streak into Tucson in search of their 800th victory in program history.

No. 9 USC is fresh off a 50-6 thrashing against Colorado, while Arizona handily defeated Washington, 52-17.

In a clash of two high-powered offenses, here are five burning questions to watch for this weekend.

1. Can the offense replicate a similar performance they had against Colorado?

The Trojans' passing attack looked razor sharp last weekend and Matt Barkley was in sync with his receivers all game long. That new look, no-huddle offense looked good, too. But was this performance a mirage, especially considering it came against Colorado, or was this a sign of things to come? One positive going for Barkley and his receivers is that Arizona's secondary isn't all that great, either. The Wildcats rank 116th in the nation out of 124 FBS teams, allowing 291 yards through the air per game.

2. Who will protect Matt Barkley's blind side?

Aundrey Walker has started the first seven games of the season at left tackle, but has looked inconsistent and leads the team in penalties, according to Kiffin. The coaching staff re-opened the competition for the starting job before the Colorado game, with freshman Max Tuerk and Walker both taking snaps in practice. Walker, though, left in third quarter of last week's game with an apparent neck injury and was carted off the field. If Walker cannot go, Tuerk will likely start, making him the first freshman in USC program history to start a game at that position in 40 years.

3. Will USC be disciplined on the road?

Speaking of issues with the offensive line, the Trojans rank dead last in the nation, averaging 10 penalties per contest. The team concedes the mistakes haven't come back to haunt them just yet, but the issue still remains a concern.

"They haven't hurt us too bad so far," T.J. McDonald said Wednesday, "but down the road you get these tough games coming up, that's something that we can't have and we've got to eliminate."

4. Can the defense stop the spread?

Arizona comes into the contest ranking fifth nationally in total offense and first in the Pac-12, averaging nearly 550 total yards per contest. The Wildcats have topped 50 points three times this season, including in two straight games, and are undefeated (3-0) when reaching that mark. This will be the first time the Trojans have come up against an offense as potent as the Wildcats' and this game will be a good barometer to see how USC's defensive unit fares against a quicker, more up-tempo style of play. The other cornerback spot has been a point of concern all year long, and if there's any game that might indicate how big of a problem that truly poses for Kiffin and his staff, then this is the game that could expose that weakness. Arizona quarterback Matt Scott has thrown for 2,355 yards and 17 touchdowns, with his primary targets being Austin Hill (678 yards, seven touchdowns) and Dan Buckner (599 yards, two touchdowns). Then, there's Ka'Deem Carey (842 yards, 11 touchdowns), who ranks fourth in the Pac-12 in rushing behind Johnathan Franklin, Kenjon Barner and Stepfan Taylor.

5. Will the Trojans be focused?

This is the game before the big game, or the November 3 showdown at the Coliseum against the Oregon Ducks. There's been a lot of talk about USC possibly running the table and maybe sneaking back into the national title discussion. But they must first take care of the Wildcats first. Even though Arizona is just 1-3 in conference play, it did defeat then-No. 18 Oklahoma State in early September and fell a field goal short of upsetting then-No. 18 Oregon State almost a month ago.

Kickoff is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. and the game will be televised on FOX.

For updates throughout the game, follow us on Twitter: @CChroniclesSBN.

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