The primary reason that the Wildcats may see something abnormal from the Trojans is due to the fact that former USC Head Coach Lane Kiffin was fired just over a week and a half ago. Kiffin had been the offensive play caller for USC and had control over all of the decisions on that side of the ball.
In addition to the change in coaching staff, there will be some big changes in the personnel that the Trojans will be sending out on the field. Most notably, wide receiver Marqise Lee will likely not play in the game after suffering a knee sprain in the loss against Arizona State.
Lee was a dominant force in the game against the Wildcats last season, as he caught 16 balls for 345 yards and two touchdowns. If he does not play, it will be a major break for Arizona.
In contrast, the Trojans will be welcoming back two players who have yet to see the field this year. Star running back Silas Redd will be back on the field. He was the go-to runner for USC a year ago, but has been held out with an injury this year.
USC will also welcome back tight end Randall Telfer. The junior tight end was a regular target for Matt Barkley the last two seasons, but missed most of the spring and the first five games while rehabbing from a meniscus injury.
In his first two seasons, Telfer caught nine touchdown passes and he will be looking to get back into action with a bang on Thursday.
Even with the unknowns, there are still plenty of players that the Wildcats can plan for.
The Trojans' starter under center will be redshirt sophomore Cody Kessler. Kessler has been under fire from fans as well as opposing defenses all season. He has completed 66 of 104 passes for 832 yards and six touchdowns. He has thrown four interceptions on the year, which leads to most of the criticism surrounding him that, at 6-fot-1, he is too short to see over his offensive line.
Since Redd has been injured, it has opened the door for sophomore Tre Madden to jump in and make a name for himself. The running back will be the featured back on Thursday and for good reason, as he has rushed 110 times on the season for 583 yards and three touchdowns.
Madden has also doubled as a quality receiver out of the backfield. He is second in receptions behind Lee with twelve catches for 135 yards and three receiving touchdowns.
Standing behind the running back in the receptions category is true sophomore Nelson Agholor. The receiver from Florida has eleven catches for 192 yards and a touchdown. Xavier Grimble, who has ten catches for 127 yards and a touchdown, follows him closely.
If Arizona can find a way to slow down the USC offense, it may have a chance in the game. The Wildcats may have other problems to worry about on the offensive side of the ball, but they will catch a major break with the absence of Lee on the field.
With both the USC and Arizona offenses struggling at times, it may be a low scoring affair. Any big plays and touchdowns could mean the difference in the game. It makes every play that much more important to the outcome of the game.
Players to watch:
#6- QB, Cody Kessler: The Trojan quarterback has taken some criticism regarding his play in the first few games of the season, but Kessler has been better than most would think. His completion percentage is over sixty-percent. He may make a few bad throws, but if he can get away with them, then the Wildcats might be in trouble.
#23- RB, Tre Madden: The sophomore is the biggest threat on the team behind Marqise Lee. Madden has six total touchdowns on the season and can easily add to his total against Arizona. With Madden being the top target on the field on Thursday, the Wildcats have to slow him down considerably.
#82- TE, Randall Telfer: It will be Telfer's first game back since injuring his meniscus in the spring. The tight end has 38 catches in his career, with nine touchdowns. If Kessler can get something going with the junior early on, it may be a problem for the Arizona defense.
#22- RB, Justin Davis: The true freshman may have his playing time reduced with the return of Redd, but so far, he has proven himself worthy of the time he has gotten. Davis has five rushing touchdowns and 311 total rushing yards, despite just carrying the ball 42 times.
Keys to the game:
1. Key in on Madden: Kessler hasn't been bad, but with Lee out for the game, Madden will get the majority of the touches. If Arizona can slow Madden down and force long third downs, it can be successful on the defensive side of the ball.
2. Don't give up big plays: USC has made a living on long plays this season so far. The Wildcats will need to contain the big plays in order to win. Long plays can kill defensive momentum and keep the players on the field. The more offensive chances the Wildcats get, the better off they will be.
3. Score a defensive touchdown: With Arizona's offense surrounded with plenty of questions, the best thing the defense can do is create some offense for itself. Arizona has already returned three interceptions for touchdowns this season. If it can do it again against USC, it will surely help the team in what should be a low scoring game.