Scouting Report: USC

Saying Arizona has a daunting task ahead of them on Saturday is an understatement. The Wildcats have yet to hit their stride this season and they welcome one of the best teams in the nation to Arizona Stadium.

Arizona (2-1) vs. USC (2-0)
5:14 p.m.
Site: Arizona Stadium (56,002) - Tucson, Ariz.
TV: ABC (Dan Fouts, Tim Brant, Jack Arute)
Radio: 1290 AM (Brian Jeffries, Lamont Lovett)

USC and Arizona Historical Fast Facts
First Meeting:
1916 (USC 20 - Arizona 7)
Last Meeting: 2005 (USC 42 - Arizona 21)
All-Time Series Record: USC leads 23-6
Current Streak: USC has won four straight dating back to 2001

Last Time Out: Arizona beat Stephen F. Austin 28-10. USC beat Nebraska 28-10.

USC On Offense: The Trojans lost some of the best skill position players in college football, but so far, so good. All John David Booty has been asked to do is replace 2004 Heisman Trophy winner and NFL first rounder Matt Leinart at QB. How has he responded?  Booty enters the game against the Cats with a No. 19 nationally ranked passing efficiency ranking. He has looked very good so far, but has not had to make a pressure decision. Everyone is waiting to see how Booty plays in a tight game, but it remains to be seen if the will be tested that way this week.

Replacing the two-headed monster of 2005 Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush and LenDale White in the backfield are a trio of young runners. Emmanuel Moody, Chancey Washington and C.J. Gable are splitting carries until one can step up and claim the job. Right now the three running backs combine to average 154 yards a game. Not quite the numbers Bush and White put up, but the potential for a special player or two is there.

The receiving corps is far more intact led by Dwayne Jerrett. Jerrett ranks fifth in the nation with an average of eight snags a game. He is also 24th in the nation in receiving yards per game with an average of 85.5 yards a game. Joining Jerrett is Steve Smith. He's not huge but is fast and physical and makes a great tandem with Jerrett. Tight end Fred Davis, Chris McCoy and Travon Patterson have all made their presence felt as well.

The line is stellar. So far there has been very little pressure on Booty and the Trojans would like to keep it that way.

For Arizona to have a chance it all starts up front. The Cats must limit the run and force Booty to have to make plays. They also must get pressure on Booty, something that is easier said than done. Not only does the USC line protect so well, but the Arizona pass rush has not been stellar this year.

The Wildcat defensive backs came into the season with a huge reputation. They have been inconsistent so far this season, but have a chance to make a statement against the stellar USC wide outs.

USC On Defense: USC may have taken a small hit on offense, but are better on the defensive side of the ball than they were a year ago. They are 22nd nationally in total defense (249 ypg) and 18th in scoring defense (12 ppg). Lawrence Jackson is one of the best defensive ends in the nation and LB Rey Maualuga the team with 17 tackles so far.

While the Trojan defense has been very good and the Wildcat offense has struggled. They seemed to click for the first time in the fourth quarter last week against SFA when Willie Tuitama came off the bench to lead the team to two scores in two drives.

The Cats must run the ball. Chris Jennings rushed for 201 yards, but that was against a D-IAA team and he missed the early part of the week while dinged up. The Cats need the run game to take time off the clock and take pressure off of Tuitama. The Cats cannot be one dimensional and remain competitive.

The Cats have not really stretched the field yet this season and one has to wonder if they have been waiting to debut the vertical passing game against a league opponent. The Cats will need to strike fast (and probably often) if they want to hang with the Trojans.

Outlook: No one is fooling themselves into thinking this one will be easy. The Cats are decided underdogs and for a reason. To even have a chance at winning the game they will need to play near perfect football and USC will need to make their share of mistakes. Last year Arizona hung with USC by outplaying them on special teams and winning the field position battle. They'll need to do that again, and win a few more battles to avoid another loss to the top dogs in the Pac-10.

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