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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Behind Enemy Lines: USC

(Courtesy Eric He) Eric He is the sports editor at the Daily Trojan.

(Courtesy Eric He) Eric He is the sports editor at the Daily Trojan.

Saturday will be big for either USC or Arizona, because the Trojans are coming off back-to-back wins including a home win over Colorado and will be looking to continue their momentum while the Wildcats are still in the hunt for their first win since Hawai’i.

Another contrast between both teams is the change of quarterbacks except the Trojans has found their starter in Sam Darnold while it is still unknown who will be under center for Arizona.

The contest in Tucson will clear up the smoke for who’s in contention for the Pac-12 South and sports editor of the Daily Trojan Eric He breaks down what to expect Saturday.

1.) USC earned a home victory over the Pac-12 dark horse Colorado last Saturday, giving the Trojans back-to-back wins at home. What has been the team’s bright spot in both wins?

The biggest bright spot has been the resurgence of the offense. With redshirt freshman Sam Darold installed at quarterback, the Trojans have looked like a different team on the offensive side of the ball. Darnold is mobile, can scramble away from pressure and throw on the run, and you could see just how dynamic the offense became with him under center. USC also found a nice balance between the run and pass game. Defensively, the Trojans limited the firepower of both Arizona State and Colorado, which both boast impressive offensive arsenals. Overall, it was refreshing to see the Trojans play to their capabilities and revive their season.

2.) Max Browne was the original starter, but Sam Darnold stepped in when the Trojans struggled. Is he really the answer USC needed?

100 percent yes. I was an advocate of starting Darnold to start the season, but Browne likely earned the job based on his experience and longevity with the program. Browne failed to ignite much under a Trojans’ offense with plenty of weapons, and after a 1-3 start, Clay Helton made the switch to Darnold. You could tell right away that Darnold’s tools as a dual threat would bode well for the Trojans. The threat of a mobile quarterback has opened up all sorts of options for USC, and Darnold has done well in targeting a variety of receivers. Even with a small sample size, I think Darnold is the quarterback of both the present and the future for the Trojans.

3.) A program like USC has high expectations, and even though USC is in contention of the Pac-12 South, is head coach Clay Helton still in the hot seat considering there will be big-name head coaches floating around?

Winning the last two games has cooled that hot seat for now, but by no means do I think Helton’s job is safe beyond this season. His play-calling and decision-making in crucial moments have been criticized, and a 3-3 record to start the season is surely not what donors and alumni hoped for. At the same time, if things turn south again, firing another head coach would do no favors for USC, a program that needs continuity more than anything. Nonetheless, USC will always lure big fish, and it would be foolish for athletic director Lynn Swann to at least consider a change if the rest of the season does not go according to plan.

4.) Adoree’ Jackson is arguably the best two-way player going into the NFL Draft. What makes him so special that Arizona fans will need to look out for Saturday?

Adoree’ Jackson is USC’s most athletic player and has arguably been the MVP this season. His athleticism makes him a shutdown cornerback, and his speed and ability to shift gears make him one of the best kickoff returners in college football– as well as an occasional threat on offense. Being able to play in all three facets of the game make Jackson extremely versatile and a constant thorn in opponents’ sides. Look out for him to make at least one big play per game, whether that be an interception, touchdown return on a punt or kickoff, or as a receiver on offense.

5.) What is your prediction for the game in terms of tempo and final score?

USC is on the road, but Arizona is riddled with injuries, and I don’t see the Wildcats giving the Trojans much of a test. Perhaps Arizona will catch a break if Trojans’ lead running back Justin Davis is out with an injury, but I still expect Darnold and the offense to continue their roll on the road and the defense to take care of a depleted Wildcat offense. I’m taking USC, 35-20.

Follow Justin Spears on Twitter.

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