Arizona Wildcats vs. USC: Q&A with Reign of Troy


Reign of Troy‘s Alicia de Artola answered a few questions for us in advance of Thursday’s game between USC and the Arizona Wildcats:

What should Arizona expect from a new head coach and new offensive coordinator?
(Ed) Orgeron has USC players excited to be playing football in a way that (Lane) Kiffin never seemed to inspire. So in that sense, expect the Trojans to come out pumped on their new coaches account. On the offensive coordinator front it will be hard to tell. Players were excited about what Clay Helton had them doing in the spring but a lot of that was lost when Kiffin took back the reins when the season started. Already, reports have Helton making much greater use of the tight ends, which will be a welcome change. Aside from that, Helton apparently likes to encourage quarterbacks to use their athleticism, so expect Cody Kessler to do more running than he’s done this season.”

Will injuries and a lack of depth have any effect on Thursday’s game?
“Injuries could have a huge impact for USC both offensively and defensively. The obvious one is Marqise Lee. Arizona fans will remember what he did to them single-handedly last season, albeit in a losing effort. He hasn’t had the greatest season thus far, but he’s an explosive player in an offense that has lacked explosiveness. If Lee can’t go, which I expect he won’t, there’s real doubt as to whether USC can expect the other receivers can make up for his absence. At the same time, this is a real opportunity for young, talented wide outs like Nelson Agholor and Darreus Rogers to break out. Defensively, Morgan Breslin‘s hip injury is a giant concern. The big reason the Trojans got beat so badly on defense against Arizona State was because they couldn’t get any pressure on the quarterback. Breslin is USC’s best pass rusher and they need him to be not only present, but active in the Wildcats backfield to take pressure off the thin secondary. Speaking of the secondary, that unit was already USC’s weakest without the injury to starting cornerback Anthony Brown.”

What does the return of Silas Redd mean for Tre Madden?
“The better question is what his return means for Justin Davis. Madden has been USC’s offensive MVP so far, so I can’t see him losing snaps to Redd. Redd is an experienced leader, so he has to have a place in the offense. That place though should infringe on the momentum Madden has built up. What’s more likely is Davis becoming the odd man out. That’s not a knock on Davis. He’s battling injury and with Redd’s return it might be wise to give him extra time to get his ankle right. Either way, I expect Madden and Redd to pair exceptionally well, assuming Redd doesn’t suffer too much from rust.”

What does the Wildcats offense need to do to move the ball on a strong USC defense?
“Protect the quarterback. I mentioned before about the effect of Breslin’s injury on the USC pass rush, but the truth is that USC has a plethora of capable pass rushers. Arizona will need to account for all of them. The good news for the Wildcats is that their rival Sun Devils have given them the blue print to breaking down the USC defense. And that starts with keeping B.J. Denker on his feet. Once the Trojans started getting beat through the air last week, running lanes started to open up and Taylor Kelly was able to hurt USC with a few scrambles.”

Who do you think wins and why?
“I’m an optimist at heart, so I’m going with USC. Why? Because the game is at the Coliseum and the Trojans have had new life breathed into them by Orgeron’s changes following Kiffin’s firing. The difference between winning and losing is often mentality. In USC’s two losses this season the mentality was all wrong. The offense laid down against Washington State and the defense gave up against Arizona State. At the same time, the opposite units in those games showed an incredible amount of heart. Arizona is a good team, but USC has tons of talent and it’s looking like that talent is going to be unleashed this week. The only way I see Arizona winning is if they punch the USC defense in the mouth on the first drive, hard. Let the Trojans get momentum and they’ll run downhill with it, Orgeron leading the charge.”

For my Q&A on Reign of Troy, click here.