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Arizona vs. USC: First look at the Trojans

A Pac-12 South showdown looms in the Coliseum

arizona-wildcats-usc-trojans-preview-helton-slovis-coliseum-pac-12-football-college Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona Wildcats saw their four-game win streak grind to a screeching halt on Saturday night. The Wildcats must now get ready for a trip to the Los Angeles Coliseum for a showdown with the USC Trojans.

Kickoff on Oct. 19 is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. PT on the Pac-12 Network.

Here’s a quick look at the Trojans and how they match up with the Wildcats.

2019 Record: 3-3 (2-1)

Key Games:

  • Week 2 win vs Stanford (45-20)
  • Week 3 loss at BYU (30-27, OT)
  • Week 4 win vs. Utah (30-23)
  • Week 7 loss at Notre Dame (30-27)

Key Offensive Players: Kedon Slovis (QB), Vavae Malepeai (RB), Michael Pittman Jr. (WR), Tyler Vaughns (WR), Austin Jackson (OT)

Key Defensive Players: Marlon Tuipulotu (DT), John Houston Jr. (LB), Palaie Gaoteote IV (LB), Talanoa Hufanga (S)

The last two times these teams met, the games have been quite entertaining. In 2017, UA ultimately lost 49-35 but Khalil Tate led a fierce comeback to keep USC on edge.

Last season, the Trojans basically dominated for three-plus quarters before some late game heroics when the Wildcats were in position to win. Again, Arizona ultimately lost 24-20 but the win was there for the taking.

This year Clay Helton and the Trojans enter the game with a 3-3 record. They have experienced two nail-biting losses against BYU and Notre Dame but also have a signature victory over Pac-12 South rival Utah.

True freshman quarterback Kedon Slovis was named starter after J.T. Daniels suffered a season-ending knee injury in the season opener. Slovis dealt with a concussion that forced him into an early exit of the Utah game and caused him to miss the Washington game entirely.

When he’s been under center, he’s been impressive. He has completed 75 percent of his passes while recording 987 yards and seven touchdowns.

It helps when Slovis has a receiving corp that consists of Michael Pittman, Tyler Vaughns and Amon-Ra St. Brown. These three have combined for 1,341 yards and 11 TDs on 106 receptions. There’s a legitimate case to be made in this being the strongest position group in the conference.

The running backs are led by Vavae Malepeai and Stephen Carr. These two play with completely opposite styles as Malepeai is the more traditional back whereas Carr is electrifying as a pass-catcher.

Redshirt freshman Markese Stepp is another name to remember as he is actually the team’s second-leading rusher with 241 yards on 35 carries.

As usual, USC has an uber-talented offensive line headlined by offensive tackle Austin Jackson. This will be a particularly difficult matchup for Arizona.

Defensively, linebacker John Houston is a name you’ll likely recognize. The three-year starter currently leads the team in tackles with 53. He also has defended two passes and registered a sack. Simply put, he’s all over the field.

Lining up next Houston, is sophomore Palaie Gaoteote IV who is likely the next great NFL-caliber linebacker for the Trojans. He is currently third on the team in total tackles with 47.

In terms of total defense, this team leaves a lot to be desired. It currently ranks 94th in the FBS by allowing 421.7 yards per game. The Trojans are also allowing just under 26 points per game.

The Wildcats have usually played USC tough but have only registered two wins since 2003. This is important because I believe it illustrates the perpetual talent gap between the two programs.

Arizona opened as 8.5-point underdogs for this contest. In a game that has major Pac-12 South implications, it’s really difficult to imagine the Wildcats going into the Coliseum and stealing this from the Trojans.