Matt Barkley is back for his junior season and has thrown the ball very well in the early going. The quarterback has gone 101-of-149 for 1119 yards with 10 touchdowns and just three interceptions through four games. Barkley leads a passing offense that ranks 32nd nationally in average passing yards per game with 280.3. Going up against a unit that is ranked 88th in the country against the pass could benefit Barkley and his receiving core immensely.
Barkley's top target is receiver Robert Woods. The sophomore has 41 catches for 492 yards and four touchdowns. Woods has been very impressive early in the season, averaging over 10 receptions, 100 yards and a touchdown per game. With the Wildcats' secondary finding it difficult to play up to par against squads with exceptional passing attacks, Woods could be a player that looks to take advantage of UA's struggles.
True freshman Marqise Lee is USC's second leading receiver. The wideout has caught 13 passes for 179 yards and two touchdowns. Lee has been consistent through four contests, catching multiple passes in each affair and should continue to be a factor this Saturday.
Senior Brandon Carswell has made an impact at wide receiver as well. He is one of three players on the roster (Woods and Lee being the other two) with double-digit receptions and over 100 yards receiving.
USC also utilizes multiple tight ends in its passing attack. Senior Rhett Ellison is the most experienced of the group and has nine receptions for 54 yards and a score. Two freshmen – Randall Telfer and Xavier Grimble – have combined for 175 yards receiving and three touchdowns from the tight end position.
The Trojans aren't just a one-dimensional passing team either. With running back Marc Tyler on the roster, USC poses a threat to the opposition on the ground as well. Tyler has compiled 303 yards on 61 carries - an average of nearly five yards per rushing attempt - and has scored two touchdowns. Tyler will use his strength and power to gain yards against an Arizona squad that ranks 114th in the nation against the run.
The most productive running back to date behind Tyler is junior Curtis McNeal. With 17 carries for 129 yards, McNeal is averaging an impressive 7.6 yards per attempt. As a scat-back, McNeal serves as the ideal compliment to the power approach of Tyler and has the speed to beat opposing defenses outside.
Freshman D.J. Morgan has received his fair share of carries with 27, but with just 95 yards he is averaging just a shade over 3.5 yards per attempt. Sophomore Dillon Baxter has only 29 yards rushing and a 3.2 yards per carry average.
Expect to see USC use Tyler and McNeal to keep Arizona's defense off balance. The Trojans possess the 66th ranked running attack in the country in terms of yards per game, but going up against a struggling UA defense helps USC's chances of having a big day on the ground.
1. Pressure Barkley – USC has allowed only four sacks through four games, allowing Barkley ample time to pick defenses apart. If Arizona can somehow find its pass-rush, it could really hinder the Trojans attack.
2. Don't lose Woods - Barkley is going to key in on Woods throughout the game. UA's defensive backs must step up this Saturday and contain Woods in order to avoid a huge offensive output.
3. Cover the middle of the field – Barkley likes to involve his tight ends often. They account for roughly 20 percent of Barkley's completions and they should be utilized regularly against Arizona.
4. Contain USC's backs – Tyler and McNeal have plenty of talent and will be factors Saturday. If Arizona can limit their contribution, it could hurt USC's plans of a big day offensively.
5. Step up in the red zone – Southern Cal is only converting 68.8 percent of its possessions inside the opponents' 20-yard line into scores and only 50 percent have ended up in touchdowns. If the Wildcats defense can give USC trouble in the red zone, they will keep the game close.