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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Arizona football searches for bowl eligibility in latest matchup against USC

Tyler Baker

Arizona wide receiver Nate Phillips (6) dances around an attempted tackle by Washington State at Arizona Stadium on Oct. 24. Phillips and the Wildcats will need to prove they want victories if they wish to knock off a red-hot USC.

Only one thing should be on the Wildcats’ minds as they head out on the road again: bowl eligibility.

Arizona (5-4, 2-4 Pac-12 Conference) needs one more win to become a bowl-eligible team. Fourth-year Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez has taken his team to a bowl game in his first three seasons with the program, but this one is in jeopardy.

The Wildcats face a difficult road test this weekend as they travel to Los Angeles to take on a red-hot USC. The Trojans (5-3, 3-2) have gone 2-1 since firing head coach Steve Sarkisian in mid-October, and have picked up impressive victories over Utah and California in their last two games.

USC is currently playing the way Arizona needs to play from here on out: with nothing to lose.

The Wildcats have faced enough adversity throughout this season with a difficult schedule and a plethora of injuries consistently bothering the team. It is time for the ‘Cats to step up and show how much they want it.

Rodriguez thinks the Wildcats can live up to the hype of playing at a prestigious football school, like USC, with the hopes of picking up a bowl-birthing victory.

“It’s a team that obviously has that brand name: they’re playing at the [Los Angeles Memorial] Coliseum, it is a nationally televised game,” Rodriguez said in a press release. “More than anything, to go out and compete on that stage—I would be disappointed severely if we didn’t give our best effort because of that.”

Arizona was put into this dire situation of needing a win after getting blown out by Washington last weekend.

The Wildcats will return home to play Utah after traveling to Southern California this weekend, before traveling to ASU for the final regular-season game. Arizona will be heavy underdogs in all three of those games, so it is time for the Wildcats to step up and play for pride.

“I think we know what we have at stake,” wide receiver Cayleb Jones said in a press release. “We have three very important games left that could really revive our season, and whether it’s USC, ASU, Utah or whoever we happen to play, we are very capable of doing that. It is just something we have to do.”

USC enters this week having endured its own disappointing season. The Trojans came into this season ranked No. 8 in the AP preseason
Top 25, but were upset by Stanford in the Coliseum in week three, which sparked an unwinding that was tough to swallow.

USC has seemed to regain their footing since then, however, including easy work of then-No. 3 Utah in a 42-24 blowout two weeks ago.

The Trojans’ rebirth could be in part due to quarterback Cody Kessler’s improved play, as he has gone on to complete 70.4 percent of his passes for 2,268 yards and 18 touchdowns with only five interceptions on the season.

After watching Washington State’s Luke Falk, UCLA’s Josh Rosen and Washington’s Jake Browning dominate Arizona, Kessler is looking to have a field day against the Wildcats’ pass defense.

USC will be without Kessler’s top target, JuJu Smith-Schuster, who has proven to be a viable weapon for the Trojans. Smitch-Schuster underwent hand surgery earlier this week, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Look for Rodriguez to once again search for an answer at quarterback after last week’s demolition at the hands of the Huskies. All signs point to Anu Solomon, who will look to turn his season around in November.

“He has played at a high level before and he will play at a high level again,” Rodriguez said of Solomon in a press release.

Thursday’s injury report showed running back Nick Wilson (knee), linebackers Derrick Turituri (hip) and Scooby Wright III (foot), and offensive linemen Jacob Alsadek (concussion) and Freddie Tagaloa (knee) are ruled out for the trip to USC.

Arizona enters this weekend as a 19-point underdog, but anything could happen with this team and in the Pac-12.

“When adversity strikes, there are three things that happen,” Rodriguez said in a press release. “You either fight, flight or freeze. We are going to fight.”

Kickoff for Arizona at USC will be at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday at the Coliseum.

Follow Kyle Hansen on Twitter.

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