USC has dominated Arizona, winning 23 of the 31 all-time meetings. With a banged-up team, what can the Trojans expect from the Wildcats? We talked to David Potts, a writer for AZ Desert Swarm and asked about Rich Rod's job security and more.
1) Arizona had high expectations this season after last year. What has gone wrong for them and is Rich Rod's job safe?
I think the disappointing season is a combination of two things. First, Arizona overachieved last year. The Wildcats stole, in the last minutes, wins over Cal (with the Hill Mary) and Washington. They also benefited from key losses by USC, UCLA, and Arizona State. As a result, I think some Arizona fans may have thought this team was better than it actually was.
Second, the team has been riddled with injuries. Anu Solomon was knocked out of the UCLA game and has struggled a little bit since then. Scooby Wright hasn’t been able to stay on the field, and Nick Wilson has dealt with nagging injuries. Those are probably the three most important players from last year’s team, so I think those injuries have contributed to the team’s disappointing performance.
That said, Rich Rodriguez’s job is totally safe. The bigger issue is whether he wants to stay at Arizona. It will be interesting to see if Virginia Tech, Miami, South Carolina, or some other school tries to pry him away from Arizona this offseason. That’s the much bigger concern.
2) Arizona has been playing two quarterbacks recently? With USC's history of not being able to stop the running quarterback, will Arizona play more Jerrard Randall than Anu Solomon on Saturday?
I thought, after the Washington State game, Randall would have the starting job. But last week, Anu Solomon started and Arizona kind of haphazardly substituted quarterbacks in and out. I’d expect to see something similar this week - Anu will start, and if he struggles, he’ll get pulled for Randall. It’s possible that the coaching staff looks at USC’s issues with running quarterbacks and puts Randall in from the start, but Rich Rodriguez has treated Jerrard Randall like a relief pitcher all year and I don’t expect it to change.
3) One area Arizona has not struggled in 2015 is running the ball (265 yards per game), how have Nick Wilson, Jared Baker, and Randall been so effective?
All three are lightning quick and can take advantage of holes in the defense. Randall, in particular, has killed teams when he has gotten into open space - in the Washington State game, he ran for 59 yards on the very first snap he saw. Still, the running game has had problems lately, with Wilson being injured and Baker struggling a little more against Washington last week. If the holes are there, Arizona’s running game should be able to move the ball, but if those holes aren’t there, Arizona’s offense might struggle.
4) The Wildcats have struggled on defense in 2015, with Scooby Wright expected to miss yet another game against the Trojans, how can Arizona stop the USC offense?
Oh, this is the easiest question here! They can’t. It’s that simple.
5) Arizona has done well with recruiting in California recently, how big is the USC game to recruiting?
I don’t think the game is that huge. I think Arizona will always struggle against USC and UCLA to pick up recruits, though a win against USC or UCLA would certainly help Arizona’s profile in the region.
I think, more than anything, it’s important that Arizona stay competitive in the game. If Arizona gets crushed 49 - 3 like they did last week, that might be bad. But if the Wildcats put some points on the board and lose by a couple of touchdowns late, I don’t think it will hurt Arizona’s recruiting in Southern California.
6) Score Prediction?
It won’t be pretty. I think ESPN had Arizona at about a 7% chance to win this game and that might be a little optimistic. I’ll say USC wins 38 - 21, but I wouldn’t be surprised at all if USC put up 50+ here.
Thanks to David again and you can get all of your Arizona news right here.