The No. 22 Arizona Wildcats (6-2) have stormed into the top 25 thanks to phenomenal play by Khalil Tate. Now they have a shot to take the lead in the Pac-12 South when they face the No. 17 USC Trojans (7-2) at 10:45 p.m. ET on ESPN (stream online at WatchESPN).
Arizona entered the season with questions about Rich Rodriguez’s job security following a 3-9 2016 campaign, and a 2-2 start wasn’t inspiring. But since inserting Tate as the starting quarterback, the Wildcats have reeled off four straight wins, including a 58-37 banger over Washington State last week. Tate has a staggering 926 rushing yards in just six games, putting himself in the Heisman race down the stretch.
At 4-1 in conference play, the Wildcats can take sole possession of the South by beating USC (5-1), which could potentially turn the Pac-12 upside down. Given preseason expectations, it would be a shock if the Trojans didn’t even qualify for the conference title game.
USC is still playing well, but losses to Washington State and Notre Dame have all but ended its Playoff hopes — the field is too crowded at the top for the committee to consider a two-loss team right now. The Trojans will need to win out and secure the Pac-12 title if they hope to play in a New Year’s Six bowl at this point. Sam Darnold hasn’t quite lived up to the hype in his redshirt sophomore year, throwing ten interceptions in nine games compared to just nine all of last season.
Despite the missed potential, the Trojans remain a dangerous team capable of beating anybody, as demonstrated last week when they waxed Arizona State on the road, 48-17. We’re about to find out real quick how good Arizona is.
Time, TV channel, and streaming info
- Time: 10:45 p.m. ET
- Location: Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, Calif.
- TV: ESPN
- Streaming: WatchESPN
- Odds: USC is favored by 7.5
Arizona vs. USC news
- Ian Boyd examines Khalil Tate and how he became the new talk of the country.
Arizona has been scoring about 49 points per game since Tate took over. It finally has a clear identity on offense. Arizona enters Week 10 with a chance to win the South Division, if it can take down a beat-up USC on the road. Tate is getting consideration for major end-of-year awards, due to his gaudy stats and winning streak.
Zona running backs have also flourished, with 648 rushing yards at 5.7 per carry since Tate took over, with nine rushing TDs.
With an explosive player like Tate at the helm, this Arizona offense has become a throwback to Rodriguez’s better West Virginia teams, those led by Pat White back in the day.
- Conquest Chronicles takes a brief look at the history of USC vs. Arizona.
Last season this contest wasn’t really close at all as we saw USC prevail, 48-14. Sam Darnold threw for 5 touchdowns, Juju Smith-Schuster got 9 balls while tallying 132 receiving yards and 3 receiving touchdowns. The last time the Wildcats beat the Trojans was in 2012 - the starting quarterback for ‘Zona was Matt Scott and he led the upset over #9 USC with 369 passing yards and 3 touchdowns; Matt Barkley had 493 yards and 3 touchdowns but it ultimately was not enough.
- Tate’s breakthrough has rightfully flipped the narrative on Arizona’s season.
The entire team has new energy. The defense seems alive and making big-time plays. The play calling is even more succinct and crisp — though I guess it helps when the QB isn’t overthrowing his receivers.
With this said, at some point, Arizona needs to be judged through a new lens.
Maybe not just yet but if this team beats USC, voters across the spectrum need to throw out the first four games and judge Arizona in BTE (Before Tate Era) and ATE (After Tate Era).
Arizona vs. USC prediction
Arizona is fun to watch and Tate is a great story, but the Wildcats are still a flawed team with a suspect defense. While I’m rooting for the upset, the Trojans are simply the better team on paper and should take care of business at home. Asking Tate to win a shootout with Darnold might be a bit much at this point of his career.