There's no better way to get to know the opponent than asking fans of that opponent. To get to know the USC Trojans a little better, we talked to Evan Budrovich of Conquest Chronicles to get his thoughts on all things SC. You can also check out my answers to his Arizona questions.
1. How's everyone doing over there after last week's crazy finish?
USC fans are still pretty pissed, but it actually does help that the Trojans are playing a good opponent this week. The best way to overcome a tough loss, where everyone wants to fire criticism the coaching staff's way, would start by beating (or at least play well against) a top-10 caliber opponent. The Trojans realize they should've never lost that ASU game, but the goal of a Pac-12 South championship is still attainable.
2. From the outside, it seems like Sark's gotten off to a little bit of a rough start as the USC head coach. What was the general feeling about him when he was hired, and how has that changed after five games?
The feelings right now are very similar to what they were when Sark was hired. Fans understand that he's an intelligent coach that will change the perception of this program, but some growing pains are going to take place if the former USC assistant coach can overcome the "seven-win Sark" mantra from Washington. Not the best week for Sark in terms of fan perception, but the way he handled Josh Shaw, Anthony Brown and Victor Blackwell, who just quit the team last week for undisclosed reasons, has gained the firm trust of his players. Now if bad coaching decisions keep happening, the locker room may turn quickly against him.
3. A lot of the talk here this week has been about star defensive end Leonard Williams. What makes him so special as a defensive lineman?
Leonard Williams is an underrated superstar in the fact that he always demands tons of attention but can shed blocks and make solid tackles. He hasn't been up to full speed yet this season, but his aggressive tenacity in the trenches allows him to blow past lineman and disrupt key plays. I think pound for pound, a term we generally overuse, but still, Leonard Williams is the most disruptive defensive lineman in the country.
4. On the offensive side, RichRod says that his gameplan for Nelson Agholor is similar to the Marqise Lee gameplan from two years ago: Let him go for 700 yards and then get some cramps. How would you compare Agholor's game to Lee's?
Well first I would say that Rich Rod's plan is probably smart, since Agholor nearly doubles his peers in total catches this season. That said, Agholor is a great route runner, even more precise than Lee. The coaching staff does an excellent job of moving him all over the field, heck we even saw him motion out from tailback to create separation over the middle. Agholor has a deep threat, especially on early downs, but his pro potential centers around his great hands and flexible frame that can make catches at a variety of points. I would warn, however, that USC has thrown to nine different receivers each of the past three weeks so that mentality may not ultimately be the greatest over the course of an entire game.
5. How's Cody Kessler doing so far this year compared to last year?
Cody Kessler has been great. Not to sound so simplistic, but he's literally doing what is asked, putting players in position to make plays around him. Kessler will read the defense, adjust his thought process right in the midst of the play, and dump the ball off to his second-leading target Buck Allen. The one area the coaching staff has wanted to see more from Kessler is in the deep passing game. Other than taking a few more shots, and trusting his own reads a bit more, Kessler has been a rather solid quarterback. Not that this wasn't the case last year, but Kessler looks much more composed in the pocket this year and is definitely more willing to shovel the football off instead of taking the big sack.
6. Can you give Arizona fans one or two guys in the secondary that they should know about before Saturday, and why should they know those two guys?
Remember that guy Josh Shaw, turns out USC really misses his services. But on a serious note, freshman Adoree' Jackson is a player to watch in this game. The five-star athlete can play all over the secondary, guarding the likes of Jaelen Strong (quite well for about two drives I might add) to the speedsters of this conference like Ty Montgomery. Now outside of Jackson the Trojans are very vulnerable at the cornerback position and I'd expect Rich Rod to test them in one-on-one sideline throws, a place USC has been torched in the past two weeks. The safety position has been rather promising, led by redshirt senior Gerald Bowman and sophomore speedster Leon McQuay. Those two complement each other very well and will be asked to make up for a younger and less talented secondary.
7. How do you think the game's going to go?
This game will either be really good for the Trojans or really bad, don't see much in between. I'm going to go out on a limb and say USC is in for a tough night, despite the emotions that are running high following a tough loss. There's something about Arizona's passing game that strikes imminent fear in my heart, and I wonder whether the Trojan corners can even slightly derail the deep-play threats. I will say Arizona wins 41-30 but the Wildcats will certainly come out looking like the better team.
Thanks again to Evan. Be sure to check out Conquest Chronicles for all thing USC this weekend and beyond.