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Pac-12 After Dark Part 2: USC vs Arizona Preview

USC goes back on the road for a meeting in the desert with the Arizona Wildcats

NCAA Football: Arizona at Southern California Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

USC Trojans are back on the road for another key game. This week they travel to Tucson to face the Arizona Wildcats, led by quarterback Kahlil Tate. Both teams come into this game looking to get right back on track following disappointing starts. Arizona is coming off a 35-14 victory over Oregon State in their conference opener. It was their second straight win after starting the season 0-2 with losses against BYU and Houston. USC on the other hand notched a narrow win over Washington State last Friday night to move to 2-2. While this game won’t have the luster as it did before the season, it will be a key game for both teams in terms of getting a leg up in a wide open Pac-12 South.

NCAA Football: Washington State at Southern California Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports


The USC offense showed a little bit of life in last week’s game against Washington State. It started off with running back Stephen Carr’s 50 yard run, followed by Vavae Malepeai finishing off the drive. The issue still remains with the Trojans ability to put together consistent drives. This attributes to the questionable decision to go away from the run game during the first half and the inconsistent play calling. The Trojans run blocking turned it around following a rough game against Texas. Stephen Carr and Vavae Malepeai gashed the Cougars for 6.0 yards a carry between the two.

Through the air, JT Daniels wasn’t perfect, but he managed to get it done by passing for 241 yards, 3 touchdowns, and no interceptions. Daniels had issues with controlling the snaps, however he weathered that storm by bouncing back and making some key passes to get the Trojans back into the game. Tyler Vaughns played a key part in the Trojans passing game as well. After struggling in the first two games of the season, the redshirt sophomore found his timing with Daniels and picked up where he left off last season.

While it wasn’t their best performance, the USC offense managed to move the ball and finish in the red zone, however there are still instances where the offense stalls with poor execution and play calling. This week they will face an Arizona defense that allows an average of 411 yards a game. Look for the Trojans running game to build off of last week’s performance to open up the passing game once again. Big question will be if USC get some consistent play calling and lean towards their strength.

NCAA Football: Washington State at Southern California Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports


After positive performances against UNLV, Stanford, and half of the game against Texas, the USC defense struggled against the Washington State Cougars. The pass rush failed to create pressure on quarterback Gardner Minshew, which allowed him to pick apart the USC secondary. Part of that could be due to Porter Gustin missing the first half because of his targeting penalty the week before.

That wasn’t the only problem with the defense. Redshirt freshman cornerback Greg Johnson and senior cornerback Isiah Langley had a rough game against Washington State as Minshew picked on the both of them all night. Missed tackles hurt USC once again. Missed tackles led to extra yardages and extended the Washington State drives. The Trojan defense managed to get back to back key stops to give the Trojans the lead back, however last week was not a good showing for the defense.

There were some positives to carry into this weekend’s game. True freshman Talanoa Hafaunga was very impressive at the safety position. He impressed during spring and fall camp and right now he’s showing it on the field. With the depth shrinking at safety, Hafaunga is defenity a positive sign for the secondary.

Arizona offensively poses more of a threat due to Kahlil Tate’s playmaking ability. This season he hasn’t been as dynamic as he was last year and the Trojans showed the ability to hold him in check in last season’s meeting, however Tate is still a threat. So far this season he has thrown 8 touchdowns and 2 interceptions for 1039 yards. USC defensive coordinator and his defense will have to game plan something to make up for last week’s performance, especially on the road.

NCAA Football: Arizona at Southern California Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Key Notes

  • USC currently a -3 point favorite against Arizona.
  • The Trojans currently have a two game winning streak in Tucson. The last loss came in 2012.
  • USC will be looking for their first road win of the season.