Every week, we talk to someone who covers our upcoming opponent to get inside information on that team. This week, we talked to Conquest Chronicles' Julian Lopez about the USC Trojans, Cody Kessler, and how the Arizona Wildcats' defense might try to exploit the Trojan offense.
1. Since firing Steve Sarkisian, USC has been extremely impressive. What, if anything, has changed since Todd Helton took over?
As cliché as this sounds, I feel as if the group has come together as a team and really fought to win games for Coach Helton. It is similar to when Coach O took over the team a couple of years ago. In the past two games, USC has really improved in tackling, led by freshman Cameron Smith and junior Su'a Cravens. On offense, despite the losses of a couple of offensive lineman, the running game has become a bigger factor and the offensive line has opened up massive holes.
2. Cody Kessler entered the season with lofty expectations. How would you assess his performance so far this year?
I would say Kessler has played well but could be better. I saw somewhere that Kessler completed only 67% of his passes in October and that was the lowest month total of his career at USC. So, seeing how efficient he has been and with injuries piling up at wide receiver, Kessler has done quite well. I want to see more deep balls being thrown.
3. Arizona’s defense has been flat-out bad so far this season. What (if anything) is the weak point in the USC offense that the Wildcats should try to exploit?
Pressure. We saw in the Washington game when Kessler got pressured, it got in his head. Arizona needs to bring the blitzes against the Trojans hoping that their secondary can win the 1-on-1’s. USC has been putting in a lot of bubble passes in their game plan recently so that should be another area where Arizona should focus on.
4. USC’s defense has struggled a little bit with running quarterbacks so far this season. With that in mind, would you rather see Arizona start Anu Solomon or Jerrard Randall on Saturday?
I wrote a column yesterday saying that USC has struggled mightily against running quarterbacks in the past decade. USC fans would rather see Anu Solomon because if Randall gets in, there might be a huge problem and I could see a big day for Randall.
5. What’s your prediction for this game?
If you asked me this question at the beginning of the season, I would say USC in a nail biter. With all of the injuries to Arizona and the dilemma at QB, even without JuJu Smith-Schuster, I see USC winning 41-17, assuming Jerrard Randall comes in and plays after Solomon struggles.