Scouting Report: USC

The Wildcats and the Trojans square off this weekend in a battle that has bowl hopes on the line. If the Trojans lose they are out of bowl contention, while a loss would give the Wildcats no margin for error the rest of the way.

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Could USC be the best bad team in America? The Trojans are only 2-5, but have lost just one game by more than 10 points. They've lost the remaining games by 4, 2, 5, 3 and 11.

"It's been real frustrating for us," new head coach Pete Carroll said.

Everyone agrees that the Trojans have great talent, but can't seem to put it all together.

"They have the best athletes that we have played all year long," said Arizona starting quarterback Jason Johnson. "Every match-up is a great individual match-up."

Both the Trojans and the Wildcats are reeling, but have reasons to feel good about themselves. The Cats are in the midst of a four-game losing streak, but played well against Washington. The Trojans have lost 5-of-6 but have been right there and blew out ASU two weeks ago.

The teams have been riding inconsistent quarterbacks. Both Johnson and Carson Palmer can beat you when they are hot, but can kill their own team when they are cold.

"Carson Palmer has had a great career," Johnson said. "He's done a great job since he has been there."

"I think he's really solidifying his name," Eli Wnek said of Palmer.

"Too many times he's had to carry the load by himself," Carroll said of Palmer's struggles. "If we can balance out our offense he's a real weapon."

The key to USC's offense is a mix of run and pass which they have had trouble establishing this season.

""When we run the football our offense moves much better," Carroll said. "The last three weeks we've had a better mix."

The running game would be bolstered by the return of Sultan McCullugh, but the SC running back is still questionable for this weekend.

Arizona has to be prepared for the Trojans to try many of the same things that Washington used effectively last Saturday.

"They do a lot of the same stuff that Washington does," Mackovic noted. "If they throw 50 times, we'll be prepared for it."

The Trojan offense gets a lot of credit, but their defense is a strength. Especially their defensive backfield.

"They have a sophisticated style of defense," Arizona coach John Mackovic said, noting Carroll's long NFL coaching experience. "It's not easy to throw the ball against them. It gives them some advantages over other teams."

The stellar USC defensive backfield is led by safeties Troy Polamalu and Antuan Simmons. Polamalu is among the league leaders in tackles, while Simmons has been an emotional leader. The Trojan cornerbacks have been outstanding as well. In fact seven different defensive backs have interceptions.

USC is wary of Arizona's offense.

"You can see Coach Mackovic's influence in the passing game," Carroll said. "Farmer may be the best back we've seen."

OUTLOOK: The team that establishes the running game will win. Both teams have struggle, but also have a lot of weapons. Barring turnovers or special teams' mistakes, this one should be close. Get your tickets now, because this one could be very good.

Maybe Wnek said it best.

"It's going to be a fun one."

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