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First look: Should USC be on upset alert against Arizona Wildcats?

The No. 9 USC Trojans oddly don't feel like big-time favorites against the Arizona Wildcats.

Steve Dykes

Sure, most things have to go right for Arizona to pull off an upset against the USC Trojans Saturday. That was the case in Arizona's last win against USC in 2009. Juron Criner's incredible 36-yard catch on a fade that he stretched across the goal line helped the Wildcats pull off a 21-17 victory in Los Angeles. It was a play announcing that Mike Stoops' program had arrived, and of course we know that was true to a degree.

The highlight epitomized the brief success of the Stoops era, and under Rich Rodriguez at Arizona Stadium on Saturday, the Wildcats will hope to pull off another upset against USC that could be a sign of things to come.

The Arizona Wildcats and USC Trojans have a competitive recent history. Though the Trojans have dominated the series record-wise, there's never a feeling in Tucson -- among fans, especially -- that USC could completely embarrass the Wildcats.

The final score has been a difference of no greater than a touchdown since 2006.

  • 2006 - USC wins 20-3
  • 2007- USC wins 20-13
  • 2008 - USC wins 17-10
  • 2009 - Arizona wins 21-17
  • 2010 - USC wins 24-21
  • 2011 - USC wins 48-41

So the current Arizona players shouldn't be intimidated. USC hasn't played nearly the schedule of the Wildcats and have yet to produce an impressive victory this season. Their opponents played are a combined 18-31 thus far in 2012. At 6-1 (4-1 Pac-12), the only loss came to Stanford and perhaps the Trojans' best victory was a 24-14 victory against the very Washington team Arizona smacked in Tucson this weekend.

Even against the poor competition, the Trojans are the most-penalized teams in the nation, sitting dead last among FBS teams. They averaged 9.86 penalties per game, a number that you'd think could worsen playing against a fast-paced team like Arizona.

Against Colorado last week in a 50-6 romp, USC coach Lane Kiffin gathered his team before going into the locker room at the half and laid into his Trojans. In the second half, there was noticeable improvement, but USC still finished with 10 penalties for 90 yards.

Add that up, and there's good reason to believe the Wildcats can make this a game. Throw in the optimism of how well their offense has played against every rock-hard defense outside of the speedy Oregon Ducks, and perhaps USC should be on upset alert.

The Trojans opened in Vegas as favorites by eight points, but that number has shrunk to under a touchdown.