USC Football Weekly Roundtable: Arizona Week
This week, however, USC has much stiffer competition on tap in the form of Rich Rodriguez’s resurgent Arizona Wildcats.
How does our panel think they’ll fare? Who should the Trojans worry most about on the Arizona offense? And could Robert Woods be on his way to setting yet another record?
All that and more in the USC Weekly Roundtable.
1. There wasn't a ton to glean from USC blowing out the worst team in the conference, but it was also the best top-to-bottom performance the Trojans have played all year. What's the biggest thing you took from the win?
Omar Shamout - The biggest thing is that the game went according to plan. There were still too many penalties, but Barkley should have thrown six touchdowns, and he did. There was no second-half stagnation this time around. The defensive line continues to assert itself as an imposing threat, which is heartening. I'd still like to see a game where the Trojans have a balanced air and ground attack, but last week was the dominant performance fans have been waiting to see.
Scott Enyeart - USC hasn't been able to blow teams out - or preform to expectations even - this year. So even though there isn't a ton to learn from this game, it is still valuable for USC to finally beat a team the way it should. Heading into the most critical stretch of the year, you want to USC beginning to peak, which appears to be happening.
Mike Piellucci – That Lane Kiffin still, and always will, care about stats. Not only did Matt Barkley and Robert Woods get their career records, but Kiffin also made sure Woods cracked the single-game touchdown mark, too. And you'll never convince me that Marqise Lee’s one-play cameo late in the third quarter when all the other starters were on the bench – in which he ran a go route and Max Wittek tried to bomb it into double coverage – wasn’t a transparent attempt to tack on 50 more yards to Lee’s Biletnikoff Award push. That isn’t a value judgment, mind you; fans, players, and recruits love seeing the books rewritten, and if there was ever a game to gun for numbers, Colorado was it.
2. Robert Woods is exactly 40 catches away breaking the Pac-12 career receptions record. With five regular season games plus a bowl game, and a possible conference title game still on tap, does Woods set a new mark before the season's over?
Shamout - It will be difficult, but I say yes. He's got 44 through seven games so far, so he just needs to duplicate what he's done already, presuming the Trojans make it to the Pac-12 championship game. Granted, he'll be going up against some great defenses the rest of the way, so he'll really need to take advantage of a soft Arizona secondary that's given up 49 plays this season of 15 yards or more. That would give him a good head start the rest of the way.
Enyeart - Kiffin is very aware of records, despite public comments to the contrary. I believe he makes a push for Woods to break the record, which may only stand for a season, ironically.
Piellucci – I think he does. Woods has outgained Lee by five catches, 85 yards, and a pair of touchdowns in the past two games. That is a byproduct of both USC balancing out its touches after Lee got an overwhelming share of the targets in the first four games of the season, as well as defenses finally splitting double coverages between both receivers. As a result, Woods’ numbers should only go up in the second half of the year and, as Omar said, that should be enough to set the mark – especially since if he’s at all close down the stretch, Kiffin will do everything he can to make it happen.
3. Arizona QB Matt Scott is fourth in the country in passing yards. Arizona RB Ka'Deem Carey ranks in the top 20 nationally in both rushing yards and rushing touchdowns. Which should be the bigger concern for the Trojan defense?
Shamout - Lane and Monte Kiffin would be happy enough if Arizona opted to test the USC defense with a grind-it-out, running-based offensive game, because the Trojans have dealt with the run pretty effectively over the past few weeks. But we all know USC will receive a heavy dose of both pass and run. Scott is also the Wildcats' second-leading rusher with 265 yards this season, so I hope the Trojans amped up their tackling drills in practice this week. If they get pressure on Scott in the backfield, they have to bring him down.
Enyeart - Matt Scott is a bigger threat. We've detailed numerous times the issues with USC's pass defense. Scott is also a threat to run, which has always seemed to be a problem for USC. Without a doubt, he makes or breaks the game for the Wildcats.
Piellucci – USC is built to deal with spread-option teams now that they employ speedier linebackers like Dion Bailey and Hayes Pullard, so mobile quarterbacks like Scott don’t haunt the Trojans the way they used to. That being said, the easiest way to beat a team like Arizona is to make them one-dimensional, so keying on Scott and taking away either his legs or his arm will be a crucial step to defeating the Wildcats.
4. How does this weekend play out: a big USC win, a close USC win, or a USC loss?
Shamout - It's hard to see how this game ends up anything other than a shootout, though I'm sure the Trojans will try to win the game the same way they did in Seattle: by running the ball and controlling possession. Keeping the Wildcats under 30 points at home would be a success. I think the Trojans win, but it will be close. USC better not be looking ahead to Oregon, because Arizona is a dangerous team.
Enyeart - Early in the year, when I felt this game we have a 7:00 p.m. kickoff, I thought Arizona would win. When the kickoff was announced as an afternoon game, I felt that benefited USC. Arizona is explosive on offense an that will keep it close. I think the Trojans win narrowly.
Piellucci – Like Scott, this was my trap game going into the season. But, crazy as this sounds, I'm going the other way – I think this becomes USC’s statement game and the Trojans win comfortably. I realize that's completely counter-intuitive, given that Arizona has exceeded even the most optimistic projections and is playing at home. But I’m going with gut, momentum, and the Trojans' dramatic advantages against the Wildcats defense (not to mention some more aggressive playcalling), sending them into next week's Oregon game in style.