Wildcats look to make statement

Arizona will defend its home field and its ranking on Saturday night against USC. Read on to preview the game, including Sarkisian's losing streak in Tucson, why Arizona has something to prove, and more.

Arizona hasn't spent much time in the Top 10 over the course of its history. Newly minted to the tenth spot in the AP Poll, the Wildcats will need to defend their home turf against the USC Trojans on Sunday night to hold their ground among the elite this season.

USC will roll into Tucson led by Steve Sarkisian, who's in his first season with the Trojans. The head coach may not be a fan of the desert as he is currently on a two game losing streak in Tucson, having lost in 2010 and 2012 as the skipper of the Washington Huskies. In those two losses, Sarkisian's teams have been outscored 96-31.

The Wildcats are riding a six-game winning streak dating back to last season and are coming off a momentum building win on the road over Oregon. The Trojans will be trying to recuperate after losing on a last second Hail Mary to Arizona State last weekend.

"They are very good," Arizona quarterback Anu Solomon said of USC. "They are well-disciplined, so we have to be explosive every play and take one play at a time.

"We can’t underestimate them. They are coming off a big loss and they are going to be hungry. They are a great team, so we have to be ready."

Arizona Stadium was sold out rather quickly and the Wildcats will look to use that to their advantage against the Trojans.

"I think it sold out early, so I told the players it shouldn't matter if we are home or on the road or who we are playing, we're going to play really, really hard on every snap," Arizona Head Coach Rich Rodriguez said of the game. "Without question, a sold out crowd, USC, Saturday night on National T.V. there is probably a little extra juice involved."

Arizona's offense will be a major factor in the game. If the Wildcats can put up points, they will be in a great position to win the ball game. In order for the offense to flow, Arizona's front line will need to find a way to slow down defensive end Leonard Williams.

"They are so athletic up front," Rodriguez said. "That's the thing. You can have a guy assigned to him, sometimes two guys assigned to him, but they will swim or rip or use athletic moves. He's strong enough where he doesn't have to use athleticism, he can bull rush too. He's got all the things that you want from a dominant defensive lineman."

All signs point to a close game between the Trojans and Wildcats. The last seven games between the two schools have been decided by a touchdown or less.

Players to Watch:

#6, QB Cody Kessler: The junior quarterback hasn't thrown an interception all season, but he hasn't been forced to make plays the way he will have to against Arizona. He could be the biggest key for the Trojans' offense.

#94, DT Leonard Williams: Quite possibly the best defensive lineman in the conference, if Williams is having his way with the Arizona line, it could be a long night for Anu Solomon.

#15, WR Nelson Agholar: This is an easy call. Agholar did whatever he wanted against the Wildcats last season and hasn't been slowed down much this year. Arizona will need to limit his big plays, but that is going to be a tough assignment.

Keys to the Game:

  • Take an early lead: Arizona needs to get on the board early and often. Momentum will be big in this game and building off a sell-out crowd early in the game would be huge for the Wildcats.

  • Want it more: Being ranked in the top ten can definitely be a negative if the team doesn't handle it well. The players need to come out with the fire of needing to prove themselves every game and not let the number next to the name get to their heads.

  • Just win: The Wildcats have been in some bumpy games all season long. The game against USC has a feel for one that could get ugly in terms of play. At the end of the night, Arizona doesn't need to worry about how the game looked, just that it has more points.

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