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Staff Predictions: USC at Arizona

The USC Trojans are looking to grab their first Pac-12 South win. Will they be able to best an Arizona Wildcat team hungry for their first home win of the season? The CC staff shares their predictions.

USC v Arizona Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images

Kenneth

Will the USC defensive front finally make disruptive plays?

Against a less talented Washington State offensive line, Gardner Minshew was given all day to find the open receiver. Minshew was able to stand in the pocket without pressure, and still USC only had one sack on the day: a Porter Gustin tackle from behind after Minshew already had three seconds to think about it.

Against the Khalil Tate-J.J. Taylor tandem, the USC defensive front must be more disruptive for USC to take control of this game. Even with last week’s struggles, I think the defensive front will do its job, and be a bit better than mediocre.

Against a talented Arizona secondary, Clay Helton will look to establish the run at first with Stephen Carr and Vavae Malepeai. Once Arizona begins to fear the run, look for the patented JT Daniels play action bomb.

USC wins this game with a score that gives Arizona too much credit.

26-17

Matthew

Can the USC defense rebound from last week’s showing and can the offense finally put it together?

USC has been a very interesting team and not in a good way. Last week the offense managed to put up 39 points. The running game looked solid thanks to the offensive line and running backs Vavae Malepeai and Stephen Carr while JT Daniels appears to have gotten the timing down with his wide receivers. However play calling and the run/pass deficiencies has been a total issue with the coaching staff and has hurt the team. Defensively the Trojans had their worst outing with missed tackles, lack of a pass rush, and failing to get Washington State off the field on third and fourth down.

This week USC travels to Tucson to face an Arizona team who isn’t much better, however the potential of this game being dangerous is pretty high. Kahlil Tate hasn’t been as dynamic as last season, but head coach Kevin Sumlin is starting to let him loose a little which could be pretty dangerous for the Trojans. Tate has thrown for eight touchdowns and two interceptions for 1,036 yards, However he and the Arizona offense has struggled against BYU and Arizona, plus had a tough time against FCS Southern Utah.

At the start of the season, this was a game that could go either way and it still could, however the reasons are completely different. This has the makings to be a crazy or sloppy game in the desert. I see the Trojans offense being too much for Arizona’s defense, too many weapons and possibly clicking if Tee Martin and Clay Helton can consistently get their play calling correct. The defense will be the story of this game for the Trojans. Ultimately USC pulls this off.

USC-38 Arizona-28

Zach

Can the USC offense continue to make improvements?

USC was finally able to put some offense together last week against Washington State, scoring five total touchdowns. JT Daniels passed for three of them while Vavae Malepeai had two touchdowns on the ground. Between Daniels setting USC freshmen records and 155 yards of rushing between Malepeai and Stephen Carr, the Trojans showed flashes of excellence on the offensive side of the ball.

The play of the offensive line will be essential to the success of the entire offense this weekend against Arizona. Last week, Washington State had two sacks and six tackles for loss against USC. If the offensive line is able to protect Daniels then he will be able to pick apart the Arizona defense and put up big numbers.

The USC offensive line will come through and the defense will be able to contain Khalil Tate.

USC wins 38-21 on the road.

Jake

Through the first four games of the season, both USC’s defensive and offensive units have shown glimpses of greatness and mediocrity. While USC has a much more talented roster than the current Arizona Wildcats, the 2018 Trojans are not built to blow teams out. It is also difficult to predict how this team will play on a week to week basis due to the fact that they are led by an 18 year old who should still be in high school. For that reason, I am once again expecting a close game this weekend. Washington State may have been undefeated, but they did not appear to be as good as they were last year and the Trojans still only escaped by a field goal at the Coliseum. I expect tomorrows game will be even more of a challenge.

The main positive from Week 4 was JT Daniels breaking out for a career best three touchdown, 240 yard performance. You hope to see Daniels repeat similar results in Tucson, but he has yet to stand out on the road thus far. In order for this to happen, the Trojans’ offensive line must create holes for the running backs to run, and Daniels needs time in the pocket as he navigates through a hostile a environment.

On the defensive side, the linebackers need to stop the run and limit the volume of big-yardage plays. Arizona is coming off an impressive win in Oregon State where they put 35 points on the board, holding the Beavers to only 15 points on their home field. The Wildcats offense has also put up a combined 97 points over the last two weekends. The defense will certainly have their hands full as they try to end the Wildcats 2 game win steak. A positive for USC is that senior linebacker Porter Gustin will be playing both half’s this game, and his leadership on the road will play crucial. This game should ultimately serve as a telling card for the 2018 Trojans eventual path to a successful, or forgettable, season.

Week 3’s game at Texas was an embarrassment, so lets hope we something a little bit better this time around, for Clay Helton’s sake. I am not confident in USC’s consistency this season, especially with the offense on the road. I believe Daniels will continue to put points up on the board, but unfortunately I see the Wildcats outscoring the Trojans, handing USC another difficult loss on the road tomorrow.

USC 21 Arizona 27

Dina

USC is looking for its first Pac-12 South win, and Arizona is looking for their first home win of the season, which will surely bring a heated battle down in the already heated temperatures of Tucson.

The Trojan offense which has struggled as of late, needs to handle their business like they did against Washington State. Convert when in the red zone, score touchdowns, and protect the football. If JT Daniels can have another stellar game like last week, then the offense is in good hands. The fixed connection between the young quarterback and receivers Michael Pittman Jr. and Tyler Vaughns will lead to eye catching grabs and six points, while favorite target Amon-Ra St. Brown will have two touchdowns of his own against an Arizona defense that is nothing to brag about.

The USC defense on the other hand can not afford to have a similar game to the one where they let Washington State score 36 points. For the Trojans it’s all about stopping the run against the Wildcats, whether it be limiting dual threat Khalil Tate’s legs or budding star running back J.J. Taylor’s. The USC offense finally clicking is not a sure every week bet, so the defense has to come up with stops and ideally scores of their own.

Senior linebacker Porter Gustin is on the cusp of having a monster game, and I think this will be the day the defense rallies around him to corral a dangerous Tate. That being said, the Wildcat quarterback who was a Heisman hopeful towards the end of last year is too talented to be shut down completely. Arizona scores 14 in the first half, but are shut out the rest of the game.

USC 24 Arizona 14

Kohryu

USC's offense finally put together a good game last week against Washington State, but their defense struggled mightily, especially the defensive front, which forced little to no pressure on the quarterback. Now they face Arizona's Khalil Tate that has the ability to make big plays with his legs like no other quarterback in the country. Expect a late night display of fireworks in a shootout.

USC 45-35

Nathan

The USC Trojans finally broke through last week and won their first game in three weeks against the Washington State Cougars. If the Trojans wish to continue this success, they will have to have repeat performances by JT Daniels and Vavae Malepeai; both players combined for 306 yards and five touchdowns against the Cougars. Their task will not get any easier however as they prepare to play the Arizona Wildcats.

The Trojans have yet to win on the road this season, going 0 and 2 against the Stanford Cardinal and Texas Longhorns. The Trojans however are as confident as ever, as they have won five straight games against the Wildcats. Nonetheless, the Wildcats man a high-powered offense, led by quarterback Khalil Tate, and running back J.J. Taylor. If the Trojans have any chance to win this game at rowdy Arizona Stadium, they will have to shut down these two players.

The Trojans look to take advantage of the Wildcats defense, which has given up 29.5 points a game this season. With emerging quarterback Daniels at the helm, the Trojans look to repeat history from the 2016 season and win out the rest of their games. In addition to Daniels, veterans Cameron Smith, Porter Gustin, and Michael Pittman Jr. have been starting to unite this team, and create a sense of camaraderie. A great sign for a team that was projected to make the College Football Playoff coming into this season, but unfortunately started the year 1-2.

With Clay Helton’s mentality of “never quit” the Trojans will come out fired up against the Wildcats. Daniels will sling the ball all over the field, and the defense will keep the Wildcats offense frustrated all night long. When all said is done, the Trojans will have their most dominant performance of the season.

The Trojans beat the Wildcats handily, 41-10