USC Defensive Preview

USC has plenty of talent on defense. Read on to learn about that talent, what Arizona needs to do to score, and more.

With USC coming to town, there has been plenty of talk about Heisman hopeful Matt Barkley and the Trojan offense. The high-powered offense is well documented and expected to put up points when it comes into Arizona Stadium.

However, the Trojan defense is something that isn't attracting much attention. With the last five meetings between the two teams decided by seven points or less, it should be noted that the Wildcats' offense may be just as, if not more, potent than what USC is working with.

The Trojans are giving up just 109.6 rushing yards a game, which already stands out as a stopping point for Carey. The young running back is used to finding holes in a defensive line that he can run through.

Against USC, that could become a problem with the big physical linemen that the Trojans deploy, including Morgan Breslin and Leonard Williams.

Arizona has found much of its success this season through the air. Senior quarterback Matt Scott leads the conference in passing yards and has found the end zone 17 times this season passing the football.

Given Arizona's success, it could still be hard for the Wildcats to score against the Trojans. The defense is giving up 224.7 yards passing per game and the secondary has only allowed nine touchdowns through the air this season. In addition, it has done well in the red zone, holding teams to just a 39 percent touchdown rate.

The Trojans have also forced eight turnovers via fumbles and another 14 from interceptions.

Turnovers may become the deciding factor in the game if it becomes close down the stretch. Twice this season, Arizona's final drive of the game has ended with an interception. The Wildcats will look to keep those numbers to a minimum on Saturday.

The game may likely come down to which defense can make a big stop or two towards the end of the game. Both teams should be able to score, but the real challenge comes to the defense.

Players to watch:

#18 LB, Dion Bailey – Leading the team in interceptions this season, Bailey is easily one of the biggest threats on the defense. He's only a sophomore, but is already making a name for himself on this impressive defense.

#7 S, T.J McDonald – The senior is a team leader for the Trojans. He is the team's leading tackler and also has an interception to his name this season. He should find himself busy, covering Arizona receivers Austin Hill or Dan Buckner.

#94 DE, Leonard Williams – The freshman lineman is a wildcard in the game. Williams has had a few issues with penalties this season, including being ejected for punching a Colorado player last week. On the other side, he also has five and a half sacks this season and looks to have a very bright future ahead of him.

#91 DT, Morgan Breslin – The six-foot-two, 250-pound junior is a monster on the defensive line. Breslin leads the defense with seven sacks on the season, a number good enough for fourth best in the conference. If Arizona's offensive line can't give Scott a little bit of time, he may run more often than he is used to and could make the game very interesting.

Keys to the game:

1. Limit turnovers: The game could be won with a big play on defense. A key interception or a hit that jars the ball loose can be the deciding factor when it's all said and done. Arizona needs to keep the ball safe and put more pressure on the Trojan offense as the game wears on.

2. Tempo: Speed is a factor for two reasons. One, the Trojans haven't faced a team with a fast tempo all season and it will really test their conditioning and preparedness for the game. Two, Arizona played the fastest it has gone all season last week against Washington. It could get even faster against USC.

3. Give Scott time: As mentioned above, there are two defensive linemen with over twelve sacks between them. They are going to be coming after Scott and that could force him to become more mobile. The more he runs, the more likely injuries and penalties become. Neither of which Arizona can afford.

4. Force penalties: Lane Kiffin made it no secret that his team has struggled with penalties earlier this week. Putting pressure on the Trojan players can force a plethora of different penalties. Don't forget, Arizona leads the conference in opponent penalties this season.


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