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Game Day Notes - Arizona

USC has a lot on the line today when they face Arizona...

Lost in all the hype and emotion of last weeks win against ucla is the fact that SC needs to win today if they expect to play in the Holiday Bowl as the 2nd place finisher in the Pac-10.

Arizona was a bit of a sleeper team this year.

But they are puzzling as well.

Arizona has played some great football this season but they have also laid some eggs against UW and Cal. They were quietly rolling along until their loss to Oregon. That is when people really started to take notice. Now, that is probably a little self-serving but I certainly wasn't paying attention to them...SC had their own issues but after their game against Oregon I took notice.

Arizona's Nick Foles is certainly able to throw the ball and Arizona can run the ball, the question is how effectively can they run it? With Arizona RB Nick Grigsby for a good portion of this season it would appear that the Arizona running game hasn't had very much of a drop off.

Arizona is looking to come in under the radar today and catch USC on a letdown from last weeks win against ucla.

Arizona has given SC fits the past few years. They have kept the last couple of games close and with SC's defense struggling a bit this season, especially against the spread, SC could be in for a tough day if they are not on their game.

When it comes to No. 20 USC, the less said — at least publicly — the better.
Privately, however, the Wildcats (7-4 overall, 5-3 Pac-10) believe today marks their best chance in a decade to pull off the upset.
The Trojans lost seven Pac-10 games between 2002-08; this season, they've lost three. USC (8-3, 5-3) was exposed in losses to Washington, Oregon and Stanford, and was less-than-impressive in wins over Arizona State and UCLA.
USC's recent struggles and Arizona's recent success — or, rather, its lack of abject failure — against the Trojans gives the Wildcats reason to hope.

"The past few years, it's been close in every game," UA cornerback Trevin Wade said. "I think this year is our year to beat them. It's at their house, so it should be interesting. It should be fun."

Arizona has more to play for, at least by the program's standards of excellence.

A win today would cap the UA's most successful regular season since 1998, and likely place the Wildcats in the Holiday Bowl, held Dec. 30 in San Diego. Their opponent, depending on what happens in today's Big 12 Championship Game, would be either Nebraska or Oklahoma.

A victory could also mark a fitting jumping-off point for Mark Stoops, who is being considered for the vacant head coaching job at Football Championship Subdivision Youngstown State.

Like I said a lot is riding on this game today...for both teams.

This will be an emotional game today for USC as they good-bye to their graduating seniors (and maybe some underclassmen?).

Some are saying that the ending of this season is a bit of an anti-climax...

For the first time in eight years, the Bowl Championship Series is revving up without USC in the mix. For the first time in a half-decade, the Rose Bowl will have to go on without the Trojans.

Instead, No. 20 USC (8-3, 5-3 Pac-10) heads into an unusual season finale Saturday against Arizona (7-4, 5-3) simply hoping to salvage a trip to San Diego from what qualifies as a down year for coach Pete Carroll and his Trojans.

For just the second time this decade, the Trojans will finish a regular season against a team other than traditional rivals UCLA and Notre Dame. USC and Arizona moved their matchup to Dec. 5 to give both schools an extra bye week, but it meant upstaging the finality of the Trojans' crosstown showdown and the Wildcats' Territorial Cup win last weekend.

At least both teams still have strong motivation. USC needs a win to hold onto a face-saving share of second place in the Pac-10, which likely will mean a Holiday Bowl berth against a strong Big 12 team.

"I don't know about how this plays into where we're going, or what other eventual things could happen," Carroll said. "We won't be using that and talking about that at all. We don't need that kind of motivation. We need to go out and play one more great football game to get the season to a complete ending and do it in a fashion that we respect."

Depends on your expectations.

As I have noted before, I am less upset about where we are than I am about how we got here. It's not the overall record but the appearance of Pete Carroll being stretched to thin because he was overseeing too many things on the team because of a number of inexperienced coordinators on the staff. Pete still runs the show so all the moves go through him and because there is so much going on it should surprise no one that a few things fell through the cracks...

Arizona coach Mike Stoops thinks they have a good chance today...

Arizona coach Mike Stoops doesn't expect his team to be intimidated by the Trojans — not after playing them close in recent years while the Wildcats rose in the Pac-10 standings.

"Competing against USC, I think, tells you a lot about where you're at," Stoops said. "I think the maturity and consistency is what we all want in our program, and I think that's starting to show. I think our players reflect that over the last several years — or last couple, let me put it that way."

USC has lost to Arizona just six times in their 32 meetings, winning the past seven straight. Yet Stoops' brother, defensive coordinator Mark Stoops, anticipates an energy boost when his roster laden with California-born players returns home.

"It's going to be their last game of the season, especially playing at the Coliseum, so I don't think they're going to be that vulnerable," said Wildcats right guard Vaughn Dotsy, who's from Ventura. "They're still USC. They still have all the athletes they have. It's going to be a tough game, like any other game, but I think with the team we have this year, it's a good time to get them."

As an aside...Dotsy is another one of those California players who alluded to being disrespected for not being recruited by USC.

To me this game is all on the defense. They need to do what they did earlier in the season for USC to win. I am not too concerned about the offense...we know what we have there. Run the ball and make sure Barkley does not turn the ball over and we should be fine. The defense though needs to keep the Arizona running game contained and they need to get to Foles.

I will have a the game thread up later...