The Arizona Wildcats begin a 2-game road trip by facing another unbeaten team, visiting the USC Trojans on Saturday.
USC (5-0, 2-0 Pac-12) is ranked ninth in the latest Associated Press Top 25 and has the reigning Heisman Trophy winner in quarterback Caleb Williams. The Trojans have won 10 straight over the UA (3-2, 1-1) though six of those games (including the last three) have been decided by one score.
According to DraftKings Sportsbook, Arizona is a 21.5-point underdog. Who takes this matchup? Here’s what our staff thinks.
Kim Doss — USC wins 38-27
The 21.5-point spread seems large considering what both of these teams have done. USC has won all of its games, but the margin for error has been smaller and smaller while the competition has not been of the highest caliber. While it’s true that their poorest showings have been on the road, it’s a huge jump for the Trojans to go from a one-score win at CU and a two-score win at ASU to a better-than-three-score win against Arizona. Both of the Wildcats’ losses this season have been by seven points and one of those came in overtime on the road.
The Wildcats are very unlikely to win this one. They have the tools to keep it within two touchdowns, though, regardless of who ends up starting at quarterback. The issues USC has had on defense should allow Arizona to exceed its highest point total against a major conference opponent (24 points against both Mississippi State and Washington) but asking for much more than that from a Wildcats team that continues to have its challenges on the road is pushing it.
Ezra Amacher — USC wins 44-27
Arizona’s defense played Washington about as tough as could be expected and deserve credit for making that game as close as it was. I don’t expect a repeat performance, however. In two home games, USC has outscored competition by 52 and 46 points. Yes, it was against weak teams (Nevada and Stanford), but those score show how unstoppable the Trojans offense is when it gets going. On the other side of the ball, I expect Noah Fifita to do a little bit too much and fall into some mistakes. USC has had Arizona’s number for the past decade, and that won’t change Saturday night.
Brandon Combs — Arizona wins 28-27
I’m going out on a limb here, but I can see Arizona winning this game. The defense limited arguably the top offense in the nation, limiting it to 31 points and didn’t allow a passing touchdown from Michael Penix. If the defense can limit Caleb Williams’ game as well, it is highly possible that they could position the offense for success.
Speaking of which, Arizona’s offense took a quarter to get into gear, but once it did, it gave the Huskies all they could handle. Now would be a good time for the 1st quarter slow starts to go away, and it’ll happen against USC. The Trojan defense is a sieve and struggled to stop Colorado’s run game. It can be easily argued that Arizona has a better run game and should be able to find success on the ground, setting up the passing game.
In the end, I believe the ‘Cats will make one more play than USC.
Adam Green — USC wins 38-27
Arizona put up a (surprisingly) good fight last week against a Washington team that on balance might actually be better than USC. The defense played well while Noah Fifita and the offense eventually found their footing and a little bit of success.
Unfortunately to keep up with an offense as powerful as the Trojans’ the Cats will need to be firing on all cylinders from the start, which is something they’ve struggled with. Along with that, the question is whether or not the Cats can contain another elite offense.
This is yet another matchup where keeping it close will be viewed as some sort of a victory, and if Arizona plays a clean game they should be able to do just that. But similar to last week, they just won’t have enough to overcome the talent disparity that exists.
Devin Homer — USC wins 38-24
Arizona only allowed 31 points to Washington’s lethal passing offense last week and will need a similar showing to try and slow down USC’s quarterback Caleb Williams. The defense will now have to adjust from stopping the deep ball to not allowing Caleb Williams to get out of the pocket and create plays down the field.
UA’s offense will be able to put up points against the USC defense. If Arizona doesn’t turn the ball over and converts on USC’s mistakes this game will be close.
Brian J. Pedersen — USC wins 42-31
Arizona slowed down the top offense in the country last week by taking away its biggest threat, the deep ball. USC’s offense is a little more balanced, and quarterback Caleb Williams is a threat to take off, so the game plan will have to be more nuanced and thus is more susceptible to breaking down.
The Wildcats shouldn’t have any trouble scoring against a USC defense that has been less than stellar, regardless of which quarterback plays. But unless the UA plays a perfect game on offense and forces the Trojans into some big mistakes when they have the ball, this will go down like most games in the series the past decade.
Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.