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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Battle in the City of Angels

Michael Ignatov / Arizona Daily Wildcat

University of Arizona meets Arizona State University in an NCAA mens football game in Arizona Stadium, Tucson, Ariz., Nov. 28, 2009. Arizona up 14-0 at the half
Michael Ignatov
Michael Ignatov / Arizona Daily Wildcat University of Arizona meets Arizona State University in an NCAA men’s football game in Arizona Stadium, Tucson, Ariz., Nov. 28, 2009. Arizona up 14-0 at the half

In a season full of journeys into uncharted territory, Arizona football is set to embark on yet another strange trip: a regular season finale against someone other than ASU with a chance to finish second in the Pacific 10 Conference.

Like the Sun Devils, the folks on the other sideline will be wearing red and yellow, but this school has a bit more of a pedigree.

Yes, Arizona (7-4, 5-3 Pac-10) is taking on USC (8-3, 5-3) at the LA Memorial Coliseum during Championship Week. Having a game against the Pac-10’s most relevant team during college football’s most pivotal weekend is a testament to just how far Arizona football has come since the start of the Stoops regime.

“”We’re excited about playing USC, that’s for sure,”” said defensive coordinator Mark Stoops. “”I think with success there’s some trade-off, so you just deal with it however it is and make the most of it.””

That trade-off is between the sudden lack of recruiting time — since Arizona will likely play two games in December, at USC and whichever bowl game the Wildcats are selected for — and playing a game of such high magnitude. The latter far outweighs the negatives.

“”I think (beating USC) would give a lot of respect to our program,”” sophomore guard Vaughn Dotsy said. “”We’ve worked hard this year. I think it will get tremendous respect for our program and just show our hard work in the off-season paid off. We’re not going to the Rose Bowl, but still, to beat USC, who is still a national powerhouse … they have a lot of talented athletes there.””

Unlike the past seven seasons, USC won’t be playing in the Rose Bowl or the National Championship. The Trojans lost a heartbreaker in Washington earlier in the season and were then blown out by Oregon and Stanford.

Three losses — conference losses, no less — don’t happen to your average Men of Troy, but USC is still as talented as any team in the nation and seems to be working its way back to the top.

“”USC looks like they’ve really settled down and played very inspired defense here of late,”” head coach Mike Stoops said. “”They’ve grown up a lot. You can see they’re much more consistent, so they present some big challenges. They’re very typical USC when you watch them.””

The Trojans’ potent offense is well-known, but Arizona’s defense has been playing its best recently. The Wildcats’ offense, however, struggled against Arizona State and needs to improve if Arizona wants to win this game.

“”We can’t perform on offense like we did this week,”” quarterback Nick Foles said. “”Our special teams on defense had a great game. Our offense was sluggish all night.””

Dropped passes hampered the offense, something Foles said will not be a lingering issue.

“”Dropped passes happen. You don’t want them to happen and there were some bad throws and dropped passes during the game and that’s just part of the game,”” he said. “”I’m not one of the quarterbacks to run up to them and chew them out or rip their head off because I know I’m going to make a bad decision, and I don’t want them coming up to me and ripping my head off.””

The team has displayed continuity with previous seasons, and is confident, especially considering how well the Wildcats have played against USC in recent years.

Even though the UA is noticeably overmatched in almost every position, it has a history of competing intensely against USC, as confirmed by back-to-back single-touchdown losses in 2007 and 2008.

“”Over the past years we’ve been close every game, we just need an extra play to help us out,”” sophomore cornerback Trevin Wade said. “”It’s at their house and it should be pretty interesting. I think this year, this is our year to beat them.””

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