USC vs. Arizona prediction and game preview. Projecting who wins Saturday afternoon’s matchup between the Trojans and Wildcats.
When: Saturday, Oct. 15 – 3:30 p.m. ET
Where: Arizona Stadium, Tucson, Arizona
TV Broadcast: FOX
Don’t look now, but Clay Helton is trying to take his squad streaking. Relax, folks, everyone has their threads on, but USC has won back-to-back games. After beating Arizona State by 21 points on Oct. 1, the Trojans came right back in Week 6 and took down then-No. 21 Colorado, 21-17. USC took the lead late in the first quarter and never surrendered it.
As for Arizona, Rich Rodriguez’s team is thirsty for a win. By the time it takes the field with the Trojans on Saturday, nearly a month will have passed by since the Wildcats last won. That 47-28 victory over Hawaii seems so long ago, and since then Arizona has dropped three straight games to Washington, UCLA and Utah. To be fair, that’s a tough stretch. The most recent defeat was at the hands of the Utes this past Saturday, 36-23. Arizona went into halftime with the lead but gave it up early in the third quarter and never got it back.
In the all-time series between the two programs, it’s been heavily one-sided in favor of the Trojans. They lead it, 30-8. USC has taken the last three meetings with Arizona. The 2015 matchup ended in a 38-30 win for the Trojans.
What To Know About USC
The Sam Darnold era is starting to produce some results for the Trojans. The redshirt freshman completed 25-of-37 passes for 358 yards and three touchdowns against the Buffaloes. He hooked up with JuJu Smith-Schuster five times for 113 yards, but they didn’t link up for any touchdowns. All three of Darnold’s scoring strikes were divided up between Daniel Imatorbhebhe and Tyler Petite, who combined for 63 yards on four catches.
The running game helped balance the offense out a little bit. Justin Davis and Ronald Jones both saw double-digit carries but neither had too heavy of a workload. They teamed up for 139 rushing yards on 23 carries. Aca’Cedric Ware and Darnold provided an extra 47 rushing yards on 16 carries total.
What to Know About Arizona
Times have been rough for the Wildcats. They’ve been very banged up this season. Whether it was losing Anu Solomon, J.J. Taylor, Nick Wilson, or Brandon Dawkins being hobbled, Arizona has just been bitten by the injury bug constantly in 2016. Both Dawkins and freshman Khalil Tate got snaps at quarterback in the loss to Utah. They combined for 16-of-28 passing, 348 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions.
Trey Griffey had a big game in the passing attack. He reeled in four catches for 109 yards. But it was Samajie Grant and Shun Brown who each provided a touchdown catch. They combined for 175 receiving yards on seven grabs.
The running game was hard to find at times, though. The dual-threat Dawkins rushed for 49 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries, but Tate, Zach Green and Tyrell Johnson combined for 78 rushing yards on 23 carries.
Offense: USC – Darnold is looking like the real deal, and he’s developed some nice chemistry with Smith-Schuster.
Defense: USC – Iman Marshall and Adoree’ Jackson are nasty in that secondary.
Special Teams: USC – Jackson is a special teams nightmare. He’s a threat to take kicks and punts back to the crib every time.
Coaching: Arizona – It’s still too early to judge Helton as a head coach just yet. But we all know what Rich Rod is capable of doing.
Matchup To Watch
Sam Darnold vs. Arizona defense
In his last three games, Darnold has completed 69 percent of his passes for 963 yards and six touchdowns with one interception. The guy has been lights out from the pocket. Arizona will need to get a pass rush going if it can. Deandre’ Miller and Jack Banda will have to collapse the pocket to get Darnold on the move and uncomfortable — especially with Parker Zellers banged up. If the Wildcats can get Darnold throwing on the run and off his rhythm, they might be able to force him into some tight windows and could potentially flip the field. If not, Darnold has proven he can carve up a defense, and he’ll do it to Arizona, too, if given the time.
Spread: USC -7.5
Over/Under: No Line as of post
USC vs. Arizona Prediction
Arizona is simply too beaten and bruised right now. Dawkins will do some positive things with the football, but he’ll get picked off again this week, and it’ll probably come via Marshall or Jackson. The Wildcats will try to show some different looks to Darnold and bring pressure, but it won’t get to him. He’ll link up with Smith-Schuster for a touchdown and at least 100 receiving yards. Jones and Davis will strike on the ground when called upon, and the Trojans will cruise to a win.
USC vs. Arizona Score Prediction: USC 38, Arizona 28