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Arizona takes on USC on Saturday night trying to get to 5-2 overall and 3-1 in the Pac-12. Our Gary Randazzo posted a preview of the game here, and I have some thoughts, too:

1. Arizona's QB situation

Coach Kevin Sumlin created something of a stir on Monday when he said there was never a plan to redshirt quarterback Grant Gunnell, who played in his third game last week when he came in during the fourth quarter of a loss to Washington.

My reaction: Duh.

College football is a win-now business, and if getting Gunnell ready for more action this season or for when he definitely takes over the starting job in 2020, then that is what Kevin Sumlin has to do. Make no mistake, if Khalil Tate is healthy and playing well, then he's the Wildcats' quarterback, but there is no guarantee that the former is true and you never know about the latter.

So, if Sumlin has to use Gunnell this season as a spark or injury replacement, he should ... and the redshirt thing doesn't matter. He can play in four games without burning the redshirt. Don't worry about it.

Think of it this way: If Gunnell needs a fifth season of eligibility in 2023, he's not as good as you think he might be ... or it means he's playing for somebody else because it didn't work out at Arizona.

The pressing matter for Saturday is this: What can Tate do against USC?

He has played against his hometown team three times, and failed to complete 50 percent of his passes in any of those games, all losses. He has completed a combined 37 of 82 passes for 436 yards, with five touchdowns and five interceptions.

He did run for 161 yards against USC in 2017. This might be the time to use those legs again.

2. USC can run ... or pass

Here are the Trojans' rushing totals against Arizona during a current six-game winning streak over the Cats, starting in 2018 and working backward: 253, 331, 320, 229, 239, 249.

That's an average of 270.2 rushing yards per game.

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USC running the ball sounds like a really good idea against Arizona.

Watch for redshirt freshman Markese Stepp, a powerful 235-pounder, who had a team-high 10 carries for 82 yards and a touchdown last week at Notre Dame. With starting tailback Vavae Melepeai out because of knee surgery this week, Stepp will have a bigger role Saturday, along with Stephen Carr.

"They've got an athletic offensive line, as usual," Arizona coach Kevin Sumlin said of USC. "The three receivers are extremely talented, which makes it easy on the quarterback -- big guys who can run."


If the Trojans don't want to run, they can have true freshman quarterback Kedon Slovis throw to one of best wideout trios in the country -- Michael Pittman, Amon-Ra St. Brown and Tyler Vaughns -- stressing an Arizona defense that isn't known for making things easy on its secondary by pressuring the passer.

3. Will USC be focused?

The Trojans are more talented but sloppy, and Arizona's best path to victory might be taking advantage of early miscues.

USC is 99th nationally in penalty yards per game (64.83), tied for 89th in red-zone offense (79.3 percent conversion -- 13 touchdowns, five field goals in 23 drives) -- and is tied for 121st out of 130 teams in turnover margin (minus-1,17 per game).

Maybe, just maybe, UA can pounce on an early mistake (or three) and put pressure on the home team. That hasn't happened lately in this series. USC led 24-0 last season before hanging on 24-20. The Trojans went up 21-3 in the first half in 2017, and led 34-7 at halftime the year before that, coasting to victory both teams.


USC is 3-3 overall and 2-1 in the Pac-12 through a difficult and, for USC, disappointing start to the season. But they have a win over Utah in hand and are very much alive in the wide-open Pac-12 South.

Arizona, while coming off a 51-27 loss to Washington in which the Huskies posted 38 second-half points, is right where I thought it would be -- 4-2. The Wildcats' best chances for victories come in the next two weeks -- at a banged-up Stanford team and home against Oregon State.

As for this one ...

USC 42, Arizona 24.