Arizona is coming off of a 52-17 destruction of Washington, which was the Wildcats' first Pac-12 win under new Head Coach Rich Rodriguez.
Southern Cal is also coming off of a 50-6 drubbing of Colorado where the Trojans pulled ahead early and coasted for the rest of the game. It was something that the USC needed in preparation for playing Arizona this weekend and taking on Oregon next weekend.
So far this year, the early title favorite Trojans have only lost one game, a 21-14 loss to Stanford. Outside of that game, Southern Cal hasn't had very much trouble with its opponents.
Playing against Arizona is something that the Trojans feel will be the first big test of the season. USC Head Coach Lane Kiffin told media on Monday that Arizona was the toughest team on the schedule up to this point in the season.
The Trojans are led by Heisman hopeful Matt Barkley. The senior quarterback returned in an attempt to take his team to a national title, although the plans for that likely fell through early in the season after the Stanford loss.
Barkley is averaging nearly 250 yards per game and it helps that he has two of the top receivers in the nation, Marqise Lee and Robert Woods. The two receivers have combined for 1,276 yards, 17 touchdowns, and 104 receptions this year and are the target for most of Barkley's passes.
In addition, USC added some star power in the backfield just before the start of the season. Silas Redd transferred from Penn State amid the bowl ban and controversy. He hasn't wasted any time with his new team, rumbling for 583 yards on 104 carries this season while also accounting for all six Trojan touchdowns on the ground.
On the opposite side of the ball, the Trojans are giving up 16.7 points per game and a total of 334.3 yards per game. Most of those yards are coming through the air, with 224.7 per game, but that means that the Trojans are giving up just 109.6 on the ground, which is a decent number.
One of the reasons for the strong defensive line is the presence of junior defensive tackle Morgan Breslin. Without a doubt the best player on the Trojan defense, Breslin has already accumulated seven sacks this year with just under half a season to go.
Overall, the defense is doing well, especially with turnovers. The Trojans have forced 22 turnovers this season (14 interceptions and 8 fumbles), led by Dion Bailey, who has grabbed four interceptions and forced a fumble.
With all eyes on the two offenses in the game, it needs to be said that the two defenses are the real keys to the game. If both teams can't stop each other early, then the last team with the ball will likely win. However, if either team can pick up some key stops, it dramatically changes the look of the game.
Players to watch:
#7 QB, Matt Barkley – The senior is one of the top quarterbacks in the country and can throw with the best of them. If he has time to throw, it will be easy for him to pick apart the defense.
#9 WR, Marqise Lee – One of the two amazing receivers for Barkley, Lee beats teams with his speed and elusiveness. He can catch and run or get behind a defense for the long ball.
#2 WR Robert Woods – Woods may be the best receiver in the country. He has hands that always seem to find the ball and grab it tight. It won't be easy for Arizona to keep him in check, but if the Wildcats can slow him down, it would be a big blow to the Trojans.
#22 RB, Silas Redd – After transferring from Penn State, Redd has been an integral part of the offense so far this season. He should get more touches against Arizona than he has seen all season up to this point. His performance could be the deciding factor of the game.
#91 DE Morgan Breslin – The big defensive tackle is the only player listed on defense for a reason. He is the most dangerous player on the team and will cause problems for Scott, Carey and the entire Arizona offense if he can't be stopped.
Keys to the game:
1. Penalties: USC has been bad with controlling itself this season. A player was ejected a week ago and the Trojans have lacked discipline throughout the season. If Arizona can exploit it, only good things can come from it.
2. Get in the backfield: Redd is going to get his number called plenty of times. Arizona's run defense has improved over the course of the season, but USC's front line should give him holes to run through. If the defense can get in the backfield and stop the run, while also pressuring Barkley, the tone of the game could change drastically.
3. Make stops: As noted before, both teams are going to need stops in order to pull off the victory. USC can score. Arizona can score. Whichever team can stop the other first walks away with the W.
4. Run the ball: While Arizona has had plenty of success slinging the ball this season, the Wildcats have to run in order to be two dimensional against Southern Cal. Having a single game plan won't be enough and integrating a strong running game could be the difference in making it a close game.
5. Limit mistakes: Arizona beat up on Washington last weekend, but still had some minor mistakes coming off a bye week. With less time to prepare for the Trojans, the Wildcats will have to play nearly perfect if they expect to win the game.