First look: Arizona

September, 27, 2011
9/27/11
9:25
AM PT
It's not a winning streak or a losing streak -- yet.

But it's a streak all the same, and it began Saturday against Arizona State, when Sun Devils quarterback Brock Osweiler tore up the Trojans defense, rendering their pass irrelevant and their secondary ineffective.




From now on, USC's going to face a lot of Osweiler-quality quarterbacks this season. The Pac-12 is, for all intents and purposes, a quarterback's conference. And the Trojans are going to be challenged in the same ways that Osweiler tested them in Tempe.

"We're gonna hit a streak," Trojans coach Lane Kiffin said this week. "We’re going to have to get better in what we’re doing."

That streak begins Saturday with Arizona, a 12:30 p.m. game at the Coliseum. Wildcats quarterback Nick Foles' numbers have been spectacular so far this season, the Michigan State transfer throwing for 10 touchdowns and no interceptions with a completion percentage higher than 70 percent.

After Foles, the Trojans will face Cal and quarterback Zach Maynard, whose numbers are strikingly similar to Matt Barkley's this year aside from a weaker completion percentage. Then comes Notre Dame and Tommy Rees, who beat USC last year, and Stanford and Andrew Luck.

As for what the Trojans are doing, it's fairly simple. They're averaging less than a turnover a game on defense, meaning there is next to no threat to opposing teams of getting picked off or stripped. And, thinking long-term, teams can afford to take many on-field risks when there is such a small chance of a turnover.

That helped Osweiler, it's evident on film. Going back further, it also helped Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib and Utah's Jordan Wynn.

Foles is generally considered to be better than all of those guys. And he has more options. His No. 1 receiver is the talented Juron Criner, who has given USC fits in the past.

But the intriguing thing about the Arizona offense is that there are so many targets. Through four games, seven Wildcats have at least 130 yards receiving, including four with 199 yards or more in Criner, Dan Buckner, David Roberts and David Douglas. For USC, only two players -- Robert Woods and Marqise Lee -- have that many.

"These guys are throwing the ball as well as anybody in the country, so we're gonna have to improve," Kiffin said. "They’re playing at a very, very efficient rate."

The Wildcats' offense was exceedingly pass-focused a year ago, especially when they played the Trojans. In that game, a 24-21 USC win in Tucson, Arizona ran pass plays 73 percent of the time. And, so far this year, they've passed 66 percent of the time.

So, yes, they throw a lot.

"You're going to see similar offenses from a spread-out perspective, a lot of balls in the air," Kiffin said of Arizona and the other Pac-12 throwing teams. "These guys spread you out and give you some of the same issues this conference can.

"They're a shotgun spread-out team that throws the ball around with some great receivers."

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C. Kessler413292350536
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