After rebounding with a 48-17 victory over Arizona State, #17 USC Trojans will look to make a strong push into the road for the conference championship against Pac-12 South rival #22 Arizona Wildcats. In yet another prime time game, USC will be tested by one of the best players in college football—QB Khalil Tate. we linked up with our SB Nation brethren Arizona Desert Swarm to get a better look at the WIldcats and how this weekend’s match up might look.
Newly-named semi-finalist to the Maxwell Award—QB Khalil Tate has had an impressive season. What makes him so special?
Arizona Desert Swarm (ADS): Well, you'd be be hard-pressed to find something that Tate hasn't done well since taking over as UA's full-time quarterback. Tate has rushed for 926 yards and eight touchdowns on just 69 carries this season, averaging 13.4 yards per carry and 154.3 yards per game. He's also completing 69 percent of his passes, averaging 11.7 yards per attempt.
He's big, but incredibly fast and is running for big chunks at a time. Plus, his touch on deep passes has been insanely accurate. He's thrown kit one interception since taking over as UA's quarterback, and it was the result of a deflected pass.
He’s been pretty darn good throwing the ball, completing 69 percent of his passes for 784 yards (11.7 yards per attempt) and six touchdowns.
So really what makes Tate special is that he has simply been flat-out incredible as both a runner and passer. There was some skepticism of just how good he is after his first three games of this four-game stretch because he didn't face any great defenses, but then he embarrassed a tough Washington State defense last year.
USC should definitely be a good test, though, especially since Tate is from the area and was former teammates with several Trojans (and USC didn't recruit him as a quarterback).
Other than Tate, which player on offense should the Trojan fans know about?
ADS: Running back J.J. Taylor (another Southern Californian!) for sure. Although he's only had one 100+ yard game this season (which happened last week), he's another big-play threat to complement Khalil Tate.
Taylor is quick and elusive, and has become Arizona's go-to runner as Nick Wilson has been dealing with an ankle injury.
Freshman outside linebacker and SoCal native Kylan WIlborn had a huge against UCLA a few weeks ago when he registered four sacks. Against a depleted Trojan offensive line, would you expect Wilborn will have another big-time game?
ADS: Not like that. Wilborn has been solid this season and probably Arizona's best pass rusher (which doesn't say much), but he only has two sacks in games not against UCLA. I could see him getting one or two against USC, but replicating that four-sack performance is not realistic, in my opinion. He is definitely one of Arizona's defensive players to watch, though.
Who's one under-the-radar or X-factor player who could swing this game for Arizona?
ADS: Middle linebacker Colin Schooler. Like Wilborn, he's another true freshman who has made a significant impact on Arizona's defense. Schooler is one of Arizona's best run defenders, and he has knack for making big plays. Against Cal two weeks ago, he broke up a pass in overtime that won UA the game. Last week, he had a pick-six in the win vs. Washington State. And because UA's defense has been struggling lately, anytime they get a turnover it's massive, and Schooler has done his fair share creating them.
What does USC need to be able to do in order win this game?
ADS: Slow down Khalil Tate. That's really it. Arizona's defense, though it has generated turnovers the last few weeks, has been giving up tons of yards and points. Luckily for them, the Tate-led offense has been able to overcome that. But if USC can bottle up Tate and limit UA's explosive plays, it's hard to see them not winning. Sam Darnold should have an easy time against the Arizona defense. UA got nearly zero pressure on WSU last week.
How do you see this game going?
ADS: I think USC will have more success slowing down Tate than the last four teams have, and I don't see Arizona's offense slowing down Darnold and company very much, so I think the Trojans win in a relatively high-scoring game. Plus, Arizona rarely ever wins in the Coliseum.
What would a win against USC mean for the Arizona Wildcats?
ADS: That this Arizona team is legitimately one of the best in college football. Arizona is 4-0 since Khalil Tate took over, and being 5-0 with wins over USC and Washington State would be more than enough proof to say that they're legit and not just a flash in the pan. Of course, it would also put UA in the driver's seat for the Pac-12 South title. Considering a lot of people didn't think Arizona would make a bowl game this year, that's a pretty huge deal.
A special thank you to Ryan Kelapire of Arizona Desert Swarm for all the assistance and knowledge. For the best coverage of Arizona Wildcat sports, check them out here.