Staff predictions for Arizona football against USC Trojans

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Ana Beltran | The Daily Wildcat Wildcats running back to the lockerroom right after warm-ups. Tonights game is vs Texas Tech.

Arizona football takes on the USC Trojans this weekend after dropping its first home game of the season last weekend against the Washington Huskies.

Jack Cooper:

Last week was a reality check for Arizona football. After keeping the game close and actually leading at halftime against Washington, they were downright destroyed in the second half. The most interesting part of the whole night, though, was when Head Coach Kevin Sumlin said that he didn’t know if his own starting quarterback was 100 percent healthy. We still don’t have an update about Tate’s health, and if he isn’t able to run the ball, then Arizona should go back to true freshman Grant Gunnell, who is taller and can see over the big USC defensive line and make good passes.

USC is coming off a three-point loss to No. 9 Notre Dame in a game that really could have gone either way in South Bend. The Trojans have been playing really well this season, especially with their starting quarterback JT Daniels tearing his ACL. Backup quarterback and true freshman Kedon Slovis was also hurt and missed some time but played last week against Notre Dame. Despite USC not being as highly ranked as they usually are, they still have some of the best athletes in the conference, especially at wide receiver, which should cause a lot of problems for Arizona’s secondary. The Wildcats are going to have to get pressure on Slovis and force him into bad decisions early and often if they hope to stay in the game at all. 

Arizona also hasn't generally played well on the road the last two seasons and only has two road wins under Sumlin, and I expect that trend to continue this weekend in Los Angeles. There has to be a lot that goes right if Arizona hopes to go into the Coliseum and pull out a win, but I don’t see that happening.

Prediction: Arizona 24 USC 45

Amit Syal:

Arizona football hits the road again after a devastating loss at home this past weekend against the Washington Huskies. This week’s road opponent, the USC Trojans, might be the Wildcats’ toughest road opponent so far. 

The Trojans are yet to lose a game at the Coliseum this season, beating Fresno State, Stanford and Utah. All of the Trojans’ losses have been on the road. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, another road game means another tough test for the team that has admitted to not playing to its full potential away from Arizona Stadium. The Wildcats had a rude awakening last weekend at home, allowing the Huskies to run all over them with a 38-10 second-half score after leading at halftime. Arizona’s defense hasn’t let up too much this season, but Week 7’s game against Washington, especially in the second half, was a completely different story.

USC quarterback and true freshman Kedon Slovis has shined for the Trojans these past few weeks, throwing for a total of 987 yards and seven touchdowns this season. Although Slovis lacks experience, playing against an Arizona defense, it will be a great learning experience that could honestly go either way for him. If the Wildcats can control him Saturday evening, then they will be in great shape to secure their fifth win of the season. However, Slovis most likely won’t let Arizona contain him at home in the Coliseum and the Trojans will secure their fourth victory of the season and hand the Wildcats their third total and second consecutive loss of the season.

Prediction: Arizona 35 USC 42

Austin Wales:

Arizona hits the road after a brutal 51-27 loss to Washington last week. Arizona will head to Los Angeles to face USC, a team who has been surprisingly good considering the fact they lost sophomore quarterback J.T. Daniels to a torn ACL the first game of the season. Freshman quarterback Kedon Slovis has stepped up in a big way this season, leading the Trojans to big wins over Stanford and Utah and only losing to No. 9 Notre Dame by three points on the road. Slovis has the ability to make the big plays but also shows his youth as he locks onto receivers instead of going through his progressions. 

Arizona should look to have Khalil Tate to run the ball a little bit as Notre Dame had success when quarterback Ian Book was able to escape the pocket, and USC’s downfield tackling isn’t the greatest. I also believe possibly some read options should be favorable, as USC’s linebackers aren’t the fastest and we saw Notre Dame break a 50-yard run on a read option to exploit them. Tate ran for negative 28 yards last week, when several times he ran out of bounds behind the line of scrimmage instead of throwing the ball away, so look for Tate to try and bounce back this week. The addition of a back who runs as hard as J.J. Taylor back into the lineup should be good for Arizona, as Notre Dame running back Tony Jones Jr. ran for 176 yards on 25 attempts. 

If Arizona is to win this game, its defense is going to need to be like the team that played weeks 2-5, and they should come out with a lot of pressure on Slovis. If Arizona does this, as well as starts fast on offense, they’ll have a solid chance. In reality, though, Arizona has struggled on the road in the past, so expect the struggles to continue.

Prediction: Arizona 21 USC 35


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