Arizona Wildcats football: Know the opponent—USC

2013-10-10T08:13:00Z 2013-10-28T19:06:09Z Arizona Wildcats football: Know the opponent—USCDaniel Berk Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
October 10, 2013 8:13 am  • 

LOS ANGELES—It’s almost time for primetime.

The Arizona Wildcats will head to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum tonight looking for their first Pac-12 win of the season when they take on USC. Game time is set for 7:30 p.m., on Fox Sports 1.

As we do every week, we checked in with a beat writer from the other side to learn a little more about the opponent. To learn about the Trojans, we talked to Scott Wolf of the Los Angeles Daily News. You can follow him on twitter @InsideUSC and check out his blog here:

Here’s what Wolf had to say about the Trojans:

The consensus out here is and always has been that USC just has more talent than the rest of the Pac-12 teams. As someone who covers the team on a daily basis, is the overall talent still there? Or have they missed on some guys in the last few years?

A: “USC definitely missed on some players last season, especially players who decommitted like defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes (UCLA), cornerback Jalen Ramsey (Florida State) and defensive end Jason Hatcher (Kentucky). Even with these departures, the talent level remains high. USC is deep at tailback and defensive line. It is easy to say scholarship reductions play a role but Georgia finished fourth in the nation last year with 69 scholarships and USC has 70 this year.”

Do you expect Cody Kessler (and Max Wittek if needed) to look better with Kiffin out of the picture or are those two guys are who they are at this point?

A: “If they do look better it is an indictment of Kiffin because quarterbacks were supposed to be his specialty. But I do expect Kessler to do better because there is going to be less pressure with Kiffin gone. The Coliseum crowds were in a bad mood before games started this season. With Kiffin gone, the mood will be positive. The other advantage is offensive coordinator Clay Helton, who wants to spread the ball around, something Kiffin did not always do well.”

Folks out here expect to see a loose, fired up USC team on Thursday following Kiffin's dismissal. Do you think that will be the case?

A: “Yes, I think USC will be sky high at the outset. The key will be what happens after that initial wave of enthusiasm. Will Ed Orgeron get everyone to play four quarters or will they have a letdown?”

USC's defense was thought to be pretty dominant even during the early-season struggles...What happened last game against ASU? Just a bad game or is the unit not as good as thought?

A: “The defense had not faced an offense as good as Arizona State. That said, the secondary missed a lot of assignments in that game and left receivers uncovered. It also raised questions about defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast, the supposed savior of the defense. The Arizona game is actually going to determine if the defense is legit or overrated.”

If Marqise Lee doesn't play, what will change the most for USC's offense?

A: “Without Lee, USC will use other players like wide receiver Nelson Agholor, tight ends Xavier Grimble and Randall Telfer along with tailback Tre Madden. That is the game plan and if USC is not successful, the Trojans will struggle offensively again. Agholor is deep threat so the play calling doesn't need to change.”

What's USC's biggest strength at this point?

A: “The running game. USC had two tailbacks gain 100-or-more yards against Arizona State and last year's starter, Silas Redd, returns against Arizona. Ed Orgeron also hinted he might big freshman Ty Isaac this week. USC wants to play physical football this year and a good ground game offers an opportunity for it.”

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About this blog

Daniel Berk began covering UA football in 2013 after spending two-plus years as the Star's high school sports coordinator. Previously, he served as the sports editor and NAU beat writer for the Arizona Daily Sun in Flagstaff for three years.

A University of Kansas graduate and St. Louis native, Berk is still getting used to 350 days of sunshine, the relentless "dry heat" of the summer and the fact that Tucson doesn't have a real hockey rink.

Contact Daniel at dberk@azstarnet.com or by calling 573-4330. Follow him on Twitter @DSBerk.

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