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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Matchups to watch for

    Arizona defensive backs vs. USC wide receivers

    Skinny: This should be the marquee matchup on the field, as the units for these respective teams rank near the top of the Pacific 10 Conference. Junior Dwayne Jarrett (1,274 yards, 16 touchdowns in 2005) and senior Steve Smith (957 yards, 15.9 yards per catch) bring experience and big-play capability to an always-potent USC attack. Arizona counters with junior cornerbacks Antoine Cason, a 2005 second-team All-Pac-10 honoree, and Wilrey Fontenot, each of whom has started every game the last two-plus seasons. Also around to help are senior strong safety Michael Johnson, who led the team in interceptions last season, and junior free safety Dominic Patrick, who is developing a reputation for big hits.

    Advantage: USC. As talented as the Wildcats are in their defensive backfield, USC is another notch higher with its caliber of wideouts. Arizona has yet to demonstrate that it can hold down Jarrett, and Smith is nearly as gifted on the opposite side. The Wildcats’ best hope is to keep the Trojans from beating them deep downfield.

    Arizona front seven vs. USC quarterback John David Booty

    Skinny: Booty, a much-heralded signal-caller out of high school, is finally getting his turn leading the USC offense with Matt Leinart graduated. Yet this year has marked his first starting experience, and his comfort level is not where it was for Leinart the last three seasons. That could create an opportunity for Arizona to disrupt Booty’s timing and accuracy with blitzes.

    Advantage: USC. Although the Wildcats have had decent success getting into the backfield, the Trojans have one of the premier offensive lines in the nation, led by senior center Ryan Kalil and junior tackle Sam Baker. And if Booty is struggling, he can hand off to any of a trio of talented running backs, particularly Emmanuel Moody, who has shown glimpses of the explosiveness associated with former USC rusher Reggie Bush, last season’s Heisman Trophy winner.

    Arizona offensive line vs. USC front seven

    Skinny: Besides maybe running back, no other position on USC’s depth chart has been helped as much by head coach Pete Carroll’s perennially strong recruiting as linebacker. The team returns six players who started at least one game last season, and the quality depth is so great that the team’s leading tackler from 2005, senior middle linebacker Oscar Lua, is now a backup to sophomore Rey Maualuga. Add in junior defensive end Lawrence Jackson (10 sacks last year), and the Trojans present a huge challenge for an Arizona offensive line with two redshirt freshmen starting.

    Advantage: USC. The Wildcat line performed well in its last game against Stephen F. Austin, a Division I-AA team, but was devoured early against No. 10 Louisiana State two weeks ago. Center Blake Kerley and right tackle Eben Britton should only improve as their experience increases, but their naivetǸ puts a big burden on their teammates to fend off a strong USC pass rush and keep quarterback Willie Tuitama from taking hits.

    Prediction: USC 38, Arizona 13

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