Get ready for some points

USC-Arizona sets up as a high-scoring classic between two great offenses

Updated: October 24, 2012, 11:05 AM ET
By Garry Paskwietz | WeAreSC

LOS ANGELES -- As the Trojans get ready to face the Arizona Wildcats on Saturday, there are a lot of signs pointing toward these teams lighting up the scoreboard.

[+] EnlargeMatt Scott
Matt Kartozian/US PresswireMatt Scott has triggered an explosive Arizona offense that is No. 5 nationally in yards per game.
USC came into the season with an offense that was expected to be one of the best in the nation. They might not have been consistent through the early part of the season but the Trojans are coming off a confidence-building game against Colorado that saw some pretty impressive records set by quarterback Matt Barkley and wide receiver Robert Woods.

Barkley became the Pac-12 career leader in touchdown passes (102) while also setting a conference mark for the highest completion percentage in a single game (95 percent). Woods moved into the top spot on the USC all-time receptions list (220) and also became the first player in school history to catch four touchdown passes in a single game.

The Trojans are averaging 34.9 points with 421.3 yards of total offense per game.

For the Wildcats, their offensive prowess has been somewhat more surprising. It's not that big things weren't expected at some point under new coach Rich Rodriguez, it's just that they weren't expected this soon.

Rodriguez and his hurry-up, spread offense did so well at West Virginia that he was hired at Michigan. It was a clash of cultures that didn't work, but it didn't mean Rodriguez had forgotten how to coach football. Rodriguez inherited a fifth-year senior quarterback in Matt Scott and has wasted no time in showing what his offense is capable of in this conference.

Scott played at Centennial HS in Corona, Calif., the same school that produced Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez. Like Martinez, Scott developed the run-pass skills at Centennial that have made him a nice fit in Rodriguez's system. Scott leads the Pac-12 in total offense at 374.3 yards per game (No. 4 nationally) while guiding an offense that tops the conference in passing offense (352.3) and is No. 5 nationally in total offense (548.7).

The Wildcats also feature an effective ground game that is No. 3 in the conference with 196.4 yards per game. They are led by tailback Ka'Deem Carey (842 rushing yards, No. 14 nationally). There is also a solid receiver duo in Austin Hill and Dan Buckner.

Big keys to the Arizona attack are speed and tempo. Much like Oregon, the Wildcats look to pick up the pace at a level most opponents aren't used to. The fact that the team has adjusted to the increased speed required by Rodriguez is one of the critical reasons for the success so far.

"I think it's amazing what they've done in one year," USC coach Lane Kiffin said. "It speaks to Rich (Rodriguez) and his system. To come in this first year and completely change the system and then put up the numbers they have is really amazing."

Arizona is averaging 39.1 points per game and has topped the 50-point mark three times this year, something it hasn't done since 1954.

It's not like Arizona scoring points is anything new. USC fans will recall the matchup with the Wildcats last year as a wild affair that eventually ended in a 48-41 Trojans victory. Both quarterbacks -- Barkley and Arizona's Nick Foles -- threw for more than 400 yards and had four touchdown passes. Barkley set USC records that day for passing yardage (468) and total offense (470). The teams combined for 1,136 total yards -- the most in a USC game in 35 years -- and Arizona set USC opponent records for completions (41) and first downs (37).

So far this season, the USC defense has been stingy in points given up (16.7 per game, No. 3 in Pac-12) and is allowing only 334.3 yards per game, which is more than 200 yards fewer per game than Arizona is averaging. The Trojans also have been successful in forcing turnovers and getting sacks. With both offenses capable of producing big numbers, it could come down to the USC defense getting the key stops needed to come away with the win.

Garry Paskwietz | email

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