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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

USC preview: 3 ways Wildcats will win, 3 ways Wildcats will lose

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Win

Not Missin’ Kiffin

USC fired head coach Lane Kiffin after a 62-41 loss to ASU on Sept. 28. Interim coach Ed Orgeron will attempt to give the Trojans their first Pac-12 win — but a loss to Washington State early in the season and an uncomfortably close win over Utah State showed USC was not worthy of its preseason ranking of No. 24.

Although he left early, it’s safe to say Kiffin started out the season shaky. But Orgeron comes with a not-so-promising 10-25 record from his time coaching Mississippi.

USC has certainly seen better days, and the Wildcats may be facing the broken team at just the right time.

The Lee’s Knees

Speaking of broken, USC junior receiver Marqise Lee has a sprained left knee and is likely to miss the game. Like UA running back Ka’Deem Carey, Lee is an All-American. One less All-American on the Trojan roster is no doubt an advantage for Arizona.

Last season against Arizona, Lee caught 16 passes for 345 yards, setting a Pac-12 record. But the Wildcats still pulled off a 39-36 win over the Trojans.

Even if Lee is in good enough health to play Thursday, the Wildcats need not fret. Carey is hungry for those 2,000 rushing yards and what could be his eighth 100-yard outing in a row.

The UA can still snag a win; Lee just might make it slightly harder if he plays.

An Improved Defense

Last season, you wouldn’t have heard talk about Arizona’s defense being its saving grace. That is, if there was any talk about the 118th ranked NCAA team out of 120 in total defense.

The Wildcats have seven total interceptions under their belt this season. Freshman outside linebacker Scooby Wright and USC safety Dion Bailey both lead their teams with 28 tackles. Bailey has recorded two interceptions, but what the USC defensive leader does not have is three interceptions with two returned for touchdowns, like UA junior safety Tra’Mayne Bondurant.

While USC is more of a defensive than offensive team, Arizona was able to beat the Trojans last year, and with a stronger defense comes stronger chances.

— Follow Megan Coghlan @MeganCoghlan

Lose

Nothing to lose

If an underachieving team firing its coach at the start of a bye week before a Thursday game sounds familiar, that’s because it is.

In 2011, after Arizona fired head coach Mike Stoops, interim head coach Tim Kish led Arizona to a 48-12 win over UCLA on a Thursday night to snap a 10-game losing streak to FBS teams after a 10-day break.

The Wildcats played loose under Kish. Maybe the Trojans will, too, under their interim head coach Ed Orgeron.

Who knows — maybe even a streaker dressed as an official will run onto the field and a brawl will erupt?

Not ready for prime time

In his first game against a good team, at Washington, UA senior quarterback B.J. Denker did not impress.

Denker, who is from Southern California, was 14-for-35 passing with 119 yards, with two interceptions and a 57.1 passer rating.

Maybe it was the rain or the step up in competition, but Denker struggled mightily against Washington and didn’t exactly dominate NAU, UNLV and UTSA.

Denker is 122nd in passing in the NCAA, with 445 in four games.

Getting defensive

Even when you factor in the 62 points and 612 yards that the Trojans gave up at ASU in their last game, USC still has a stout defense.

Southern California is second in the conference in total defense, first in rushing defense, fifth in pass defense, fourth in pass defense efficiency, third in interceptions, second in sacks and second in opponent first downs.

The Trojans may be short on scholarships, and their coaching staff isn’t at full strength anymore, but they’re still USC. They may look like they’re reeling, but they still have talent.

—Follow James Kelley @JamesKelley520

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