USC’s defense has been playing well as of late and in terms of individual talent, it will be one of the best Arizona will face all season.
The USC secondary is top notch and whether it’s Brandon Dawkins or Khalil Tate, Arizona’s quarterback is in for a difficult day throwing the ball.
Junior Adoree Jackson is one of the best athletes in the country. He tends to struggle with bigger receivers because he remains a little too skinny, but that doesn’t take away from his talent.
He leads USC with two interceptions and six passes defended, so Arizona will have to account for him at all times.
On the other side is 6-foot-1, 200-pound sophomore Iman Marshall. He’s seen more than his fair share of action this season because teams tend to throw away from Jackson.
Still, Marshall has been strong at times this season and is fourth on the season with 30 tackles to go along with an interception.
Sophomore Marvell Telll will get the start at free safety and has done pretty well this season. He has 22 tackles with two of them for a loss and his usage varies by package.
Leon McQuay and Chris Hawkins split time at strong safety and that also depends on the package.
McQuay is better in coverage and Hawkins is likely better when he is aggressive to the line, so it will be interesting to see how USC tends to split time.
USC will often play four linebackers. Sophomore Cameron Smith leads the Trojans with 49 tackles.
He was one of the better freshmen linebackers in the country last season and has continued to play well in a similar role.
Michael Hutchings also plays inside and is third on the team in tackles. He has had a shoulder issue, but is practicing with the ones this week and should be fine.
Porter Gustin lines up on the outside and at 6-foot-5, 260 pounds is bigger than most of Arizona’s defensive linemen.
He is second on the team in tackles with 39 and leads the Trojans with 5.5 tackles for loss and two sacks.
Uchenna Nwosu is the other linebacker on the outside and is strong in coverage. He has an impressive four passes defended, but can also get to the quarterback.
In what’s the theme of the entire USC team, the Trojans have plenty of talent on the defensive line.
Sophomore Rasheem Green lines up at defensive end and he has two sacks this season. Green is somewhat inconsistent, but he’s still quick off the edge and a player that is going to get plenty of action with Arizona’s zone read offense.
Stevie Tu’ikolovatu lines up inside and rotates with Josh Fatu. Both players are basically even on the depth chart and you’ll see the rotation depending on what down it is.
Fatu has been playing well as of late and with Nathan Eldridge struggling some last week, Arizona is going to have his hands full.
Players to Watch
#2, CB Adoree’ Jackson: We’re actually not sure that Jackson is as good as some people think he is, but he is dangerous in coverage when you take his athletic ability into account.
#4, SS Chris Hawkins: Hawkins is going to get plenty of run on Saturday because of Arizona’s offense. It wouldn’t be a shock to see him make numerous big plays.
Keys to the Game
1. Establish the run: Arizona has no choice but to find a way to do this. USC is too talented to expected to score again with a one dimensional offense.
2. Let Tate create: Khalil Tate is at his best when he has some freedom. That’s not to say he should do whatever he wants, but Arizona shouldn’t hold him back.
3. Stay disciplined: Arizona needs to be aggressive, but not to the point where it is getting called for penalties. USC is physical and Arizona needs to make sure it doesn’t get caught up.