No. 10 Southern California, after its bye week, will look to rev its offense against Arizona’s struggling defense Saturday in Tucson, Ariz.
The Trojans (6-1, 4-1 Pac-12) are averaging 40.4 points and 475.3 yards per game but still came up short their last time out, a 43-42 loss at Utah on Oct. 15. The Utes won on a touchdown and two-point conversion in the final minute.
“You get tested in a different way when you lose one, especially the way that one played out. It sends you one or two different ways,” USC coach Lincoln Riley said. “Everything I’ve seen of this team up to this point leads me to believe that we’ll handle it in a way that’ll bring us closer together and make us even better. Now we gotta go do it.”
Arizona (3-4, 1-3) also comes off a bye week, which resulted in freshman cornerback Ephesians Prysock, a one-time USC commit, earning more playing time, according to coach Jedd Fisch. The coach added that his defense might opt for more three-cornerback looks against the Trojans’ dynamic passing game.
USC’s Caleb Williams is averaging 281.6 passing yards per game, has a 19-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio and is the team’s second-leading rusher with 235 yards. Jordan Addison (39 catches, 585 yards, seven TDs) and Mario Williams (26, 493, 4) lead the receiving corps. Addison is considered day-to-day with a leg injury, Riley said Tuesday.
Arizona’s problems on defense stem from an inability to get into the backfield. The Wildcats are 128th nationally in tackles for loss (3.9 per game) and tied for 117th in sacks (1.29 per game).
Arizona, in its past two games (Washington, Oregon), failed to record a sack or a quarterback hurry. USC transfer end Hunter Echols leads the team with 3.5 sacks.
It could also be a big day for Trojans running back Travis Dye, who has 647 rushing yards and seven touchdowns, averaging 6.4 yards per carry. Arizona is tied for 121st against the run, yielding 207.4 yards per game.
But the Wildcats have their best offense in several years, starting with quarterback Jayden de Laura. He has passed for at least 400 yards in three of the past four games, and Fisch would like to see him use his legs even more.
“He’s not getting sacked very often. He’s making plays with his feet,” Fisch said. “He’s running around. He’s very hard to tackle, very slithery back there. And I love that.”
Unlike Williams, however, de Laura has been turnover-prone, including seven interceptions. USC has thrived with a plus-2.14 turnover margin per game, the best mark in the country.
Arizona’s strong receiving corps is led by Jacob Cowing, who has 53 catches for 737 yards and seven touchdowns.
“We’ve played a couple of other good sets (of receivers),” Riley said, “but these guys are definitely right there, if not the best.”
USC has won nine in a row in the series and 18 of 20 since the Wildcats let go of coach Dick Tomey after the 2000 season. Despite the Trojans’ two-decades dominance in the win column, the games often have been unusually close, with 11 of the past 15 meetings being decided by seven points or fewer.
–Field Level Media