Arizona guard Mark Lyons, right, dives at the ball and pokes it away from USC guard Jio Fontan, causing a turnover in the first half.


Dear Mr. Football: Do you think Rich Rodriguez is a bit intimidated by USC? I mean, c'mon man, he called QB Matt Barkley "one of the all-time greats."

A: RichRod probably got over his aw-shucks, awestruck stage as a freshman defensive back at West Virginia, 1981. The Mountaineers that year played against QB Dan Marino. As a junior in 1983, when he played a lot, RichRod faced Doug Flutie, Bernie Kosar and Boomer Esiason. Forget the awe. Now it's just a healthy fear.

Dear Mr. Football: Was USC coach Lane Kiffin one of the "all-time greats?"

A: Kiffin sat on the Fresno State bench so long, 1994-96, that he didn't letter for the Bulldogs. Those QBs who kept Kiffin on the bench, Richie Donati and Jim Arellanes, didn' t exactly become "all-time greats" either.

Arellanes played minor-league football and is now a PE teacher and football coach at Marshall Fundamental school in Pasadena, Calif. Donati is commissioner of the Tri-County Youth Football League and a personal trainer in Madera, Calif. Kiffin couldn't match their stats, but they can't match the decimal points of his pay stub.

Dear Mr. Football: USC linebacker Dion Bailey told the L.A. Daily News this week that Arizona "has a lot of talent; they recruited a lot of us, too." Is that baloney?

A: Yep. Baloney. According to, Arizona offered scholarships to just five of USC's listed starters on this week's two-deep chart. And none of them took a visit to Tucson.

The Wildcats offered Bailey, guard Marcus Martin, nose tackle George Uko, safety T.J. McDonald and cornerback Torin Harris.

By comparison, USC offered scholarships to just one current Wildcat, linebacker Marquis Flowers, and to ex-Wildcat safety Adam Hall.

The Trojans didn't even bite on Ka'Deem Carey or Matt Scott. They would be sitting on the 'SC bench.

Dear Mr. Football: Are Trojan receivers Robert Woods and Marqise "No U" Lee cinches to be the All-Pac-12 receivers?

A: Almost any coach, scout or serious Pac-12 fan will tell you that Woods and Lee are the league's two best receivers. As UA safety Patrick "Peanut" Onwuasor said this week: "If they are on different sides, you know something's going on … and if they line up together, you know something's going on."

With Woods and Lee, something's always going on, but the chances of them being on the first-team all-league squad are not good.

Some of it is that Oregon State WR Markus Wheaton is probably a more valuable offensive player than any non-QB in the league and, unless he gets hurt, is likely a unanimous selection. Woods and Lee will split the rest of the ballots.

Since the league was formed in 1978, the only team to have both all-conference receivers was Stanford in 1980, with Ken Margerum and Andre Tyler.

How tough is it to be an all-Pac-12 receiver? Cal's Keenan Allen was a first-team pick last year, and has 56 catches this year, and has virtually no chance to repeat.

Dear Mr. Football: Did Matt Scott really play better as a high school senior against unbeaten, USC-pipeline Mater Dei than he did against Washington, Stanford and Oklahoma State?

A: Scott rushed for 177 yards in that ballyhooed game (a 51-37 loss), and passed for 178 yards. But he was outplayed by Barkley, who threw for 365 yards against a defense that included future Sun Devil defensive stars Vontaze Burfict and Will Sutton.

You can find highlights of that game on YouTube, and what stands out isn't either of today's QBs, but Mater Dei head coach Bruce Rollinson.

At game's end, Rollinson, a former flanker at USC, the man who assembly-lines all of those super prep prospects to his alma mater, does an impromptu soft-shoe dance as his team celebrates. I guess it's an L.A. thing. Everybody's gotta be a celebrity, have a schtick or wear two different jersey numbers in the same game.

Dear Mr. Football: Did USC hire Herb Sendek as a consultant on non-conference scheduling?

A: Outside of Notre Dame, the Trojans are playing Hawaii and Syracuse in football this year, which was a step down from last year's Minnesota and Hawaii gauntlet, and the Hawaii-Minnesota-Virginia laugh track of 2010.

Next year, USC is tackling Utah State, Hawaii and Boston College. What, is Fresno State busy? No, the Trojans will play Fresno State in 2014.

Dear Mr. Football: Is it time to start bringing the "Ca-STEEL CURTAIN" placards to Arizona Stadium?

A: New UA defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel, who inherited a significant personnel deficit, coaches a unit that yields 299 passing yards a game. Oddly, that's exactly last year's UA pass defense average, 299 yards.

That doesn't mean they don't want Casteel back at defense-poor West Virginia. Last year, Casteel's Mountaineer defense was 61st nationally when it surrendered 26.8 points per game. But this year, sans Casteel, West Virginia is 118th at 39.9 per game.

The big change with Casteel is that you never notice him on the sidelines. He is collected and unobtrusive. A bad call? Move on. He is Mike Riley with more hair.

After all of the big-money, I-hope-the-TV-cameras-are-on-me celebrity coordinators in this league, from ex-UW assistant Nick Holt to USC's Ed Orgeron, it's nice to see someone earn his paycheck without screaming at someone.

Dear Mr. Football: Did Washington coach Steve Sarkisian take last week's 52-17 loss to Arizona like a man?

A: In his Monday press conference, Sark blamed everything but the curvature of the earth on his team's demise. He talked about arriving too late in Tucson, a bad mix of pass-run calls and, of course, being over-confident.

Sark said "maybe" his team might have overlooked the Wildcats and added: "I don't know if some of us took a 'phew, the first six games are done, now we get the next six,'" approach.

Arizona's one real chance today is that Kiffin has been peddling the "phew, we get one last breather before we play the Ducks next week," approach.

Based on talent, USC wins by two touchdowns. If the Trojans are looking for an afternoon siesta before the Really Big Game next week, it could be tight at the finish.

And if the sun gets in USC's eyes, Arizona can steal this game.

Alas, the stadium turf will be covered by shadows in most of the second half. Trojans roll 45-31.