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Saturday, November 13, 2010
5 things to watch: USC vs. Arizona Wildcats

By Mark Saxon

Five things to watch:

Did Stanford offer a road map? Arizona looked a whole lot more formidable before it went to Palo Alto and got pounded, 42-17. The Wildcats defense, well-hyped much of the season, allowed 510 yards and couldn't sack Andrew Luck once. The difference between Stanford and USC is experience. The Cardinal has more of it, but USC does have a quarterback, Matt Barkley, who is at least comparable to Luck. Look for USC to emulate Stanford by simplifying the offense to protect Barkley and control the clock.

Can Barkley keep his word? The Trojans sophomore quarterback isn't shy about what he expects of himself. His goal for the remainder of the season is to avoid interceptions. Not one. If he does that, his numbers should be good enough to get him Heisman chatter going into next year and it might be good enough to give USC the 10-3 season it's hoping for.

Is Robert Woods all the way back? He's the USC player most likely to turn a nothing play into a spectacular long score at any moment. The freshman receiver was exhausted by the Oregon game and hospitalized before the Arizona State game with vomiting and back pain. Barkley loves the game plan this week and he'll love it even more if Woods shakes off tacklers and provides some big gains.

Will the Trojans get frazzled? This game will be played in the loudest stadium USC has entered this season. It's not even close. The Wildcats' student section, the 'ZonaZoo, is notoriously raucous and the design of the stadium traps the noise. It could be an issue for the Trojans offense, especially in long yardage situations.  USC will have a better chance if it avoids those altogether.

Can they win as scrappy underdogs? It's believed USC hasn't won as an underdog since it upset UCLA 27-0 at the end of the 2001 season, Pete Carroll's first on campus. The Trojans were getting points against Stanford and Oregon and lost both games. The thing about USC is, even when it's an underdog, it never gets overlooked.