Last time the USC Trojans faced the Arizona Wildcats, they won the game 49-35. For the Trojans to be victorious again and notch their first Pac-12 win of the season, the following players must be kept in check by the more talented Trojans. Though Arizona is 2-2, the biggest mistake USC can make is to underestimate a team hungry for a revenge win.
Khalil Tate - Quarterback
It is no secret that Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate is the most dynamic players on the Wildcats’ roster. Last season the dual threat Tate rushed for 1,411 yards and 12 touchdowns. He averaged 9.2 yards per carry and became the only Pac-12 quarterback in history to rush for over 1,000 total yards. While is stats on the ground were what made him an instant Arizona legend, his passing yards were lower than most quarterbacks, he still threw for 14 touchdowns and had a solid completion rate of 62 percent.
This season with a new head coach in Kevin Sumlin and new scheme, Tate hasn’t put up the huge numbers Arizona fans are used to seeing from him. Through four games Tate has rushed for a minuscule 31 yards and two touchdowns. His completion percentage has gone down to 54.3 as well. While these stats aren’t like the explosive Tate of 2017, USC should not underestimate a dynamic player that has the chance to break loose at any moment.
Last year against the Trojans, Tate rushed for 161 yards and one touchdown, while throwing for 146 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions. USC is still looking for their first interception of the season, could it come from the rush based Tate? If the Trojans want to continue to corral Tate this season, they will have to bring heavy pressure with Porter Gustin and Christian Rector.
J.J. Taylor - Running back
Southern California native J.J. Taylor is coming off an impressive 284 yard game against Oregon State and will be looking to shred another Pac-12 team whose rush defense has been less than ideal.
USC is currently the No. 89 rush defense in the country having allowed 718 total yards in four games. If the Trojans don’t plug up the holes they are letting opponents create, Taylor will take advantage of the 4.99 average yards per carry USC’s defense is letting slip through their fingers.
In four games, Taylor has 477 yards, three touchdowns, and is averaging 6.7 yards per carry. Just a sophomore, he is an elusive and promising running back that will make the Trojans pay if they allow him to break tackles and find holes.
Jace Whittaker & Lorenzo Burns - Corner back
Corner back Lorenzo Burns lead the Wildcats and the Pac-12 in interceptions last year with five, and will be hungry for more against true freshman JT Daniels. The sophomore also had 81 tackles on the 2017 season and has 16 total through four games this season.
Burns is looking for his first interception of 2018, and though he is a bit undersized at 5-foot-10, 181 pounds, Trojan quarterback Daniels should not underestimate his ability to locate the football.
While USC’s starting receivers Tyler Vaughns, Michael Pittman Jr., and Amon-Ra St. Brown all have a noticeable height advantage, Burns has six pass breakups on the season and will surely put up a fight.