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Arizona vs. USC: Previewing the game by the numbers

"How bad is it, doctor?" It's very bad. We take a look at the numbers behind Arizona's upcoming match-up with USC.

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Every week, we try to dive into some statistics to see if we can learn anything about the upcoming game. This week, we take a look at the USC Trojans to see if the Arizona Wildcats have any shot at pulling off the win.


According to Bill Connelly's S&P+, that's Arizona's win probability this week. That makes Arizona the third-biggest underdog this week, behind only North Texas (on the road against Louisiana Tech) and Rutgers (on the road against Michigan). This week is really a perfect storm of bad circumstances - Arizona is forced to play on the road while dealing with severe injuries against a team that was having problems earlier this year, but has rebounded spectacularly and has a ton of talent. Bad news all around.


Speaking of injuries, Arizona has already ruled five players out of this game due to injury - Jacob Alsadek, Freddie Tagaloa, Scooby Wright, Derrick Turituri, and Nick Wilson. All of these are starters, and as Greg Hansen pointed out, they're arguably the five best prospects on the team. This is bad, and it probably means that the win probability from S&P+ is overstated because the injuries, especially those to Alsadek and Tagaloa, aren't accounted for. Part of me wonders if the coaching staff is willing to rest some guys who are banged up (Wilson and Tagaloa, in particular) and not risk injury given the long odds the Wildcats face in this game.

8th and 11th

Let's talk a little bit more about S&P+. S&P+ uses "opponent-adjusted components of what Bill Connelly has deemed the Five Factors of College Football: efficiency, explosiveness, field position, and finishing drives." (Turnovers is the fifth factor, but whatever). Basically, it's KenPom ratings for college football, and like KenPom, S&P+ not only provides an overall rating for a team, but it also gives a rating for a team's offense and a team's defense.

Those ratings show that the Trojans are not only a very good team, but a very balanced team as well. USC is ranked 8th in the country in offensive S&P+ and 11th in defensive S&P+. The only other team ranked in the top 15 of both offensive and defensive S&P+ is Clemson, who is ranked #1 in S&P+ and in the college football playoff rankings.

Washington, by the way, is ranked 10th in defensive S&P+. Arizona scored 3 points against Washington. These are all bad signs for this week's game.


USC is currently a 20 point favorite. The line opened at 16.5 and moved sharply in USC's direction. Vegas does not have any confidence that the Wildcats will be able to stop, or even keep up with, USC. Can you blame them?

The Wildcats probably won't win this weekend. Hopefully, though, the team will use this week to get some guys healthy, show some glimmers of hope on defense, and get the offense back on track. If that happens and Arizona loses by a couple of touchdowns, I'd view it as a step in the right direction. Let's just hope that whatever happened last week in Seattle doesn't happen against this week in the Coliseum.