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USC Sports

USC at Arizona: How they match up

Su’a Cravens, Delvon Simmons
Trojans defensive tackle Delvon Simmons (52) congratulates teammates Su’a Cravens after he made a big play against Arizona State last week.
(Victor Decolongon / Getty Images)

USC is unranked but still a slight favorite to win on the road against Arizona, the Pac-12 Conference’s only undefeated team. The game will be played in Tucson, where the Trojans were defeated two years ago and began a downward spiral. Staff writer Gary Klein examines the story lines and matchups:

Rank and file

Arizona’s 31-24 upset over Oregon last week propelled it from unranked to No. 10 in the Associated Press media poll, the largest jump since the poll expanded to 25 teams in 1989.

USC last defeated a top-10 team when the Trojans upset No. 5 Stanford at the Coliseum last season. In 2011, the Trojans defeated No. 4-ranked Oregon at Eugene, Ore.

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Playmakers

The matchup features a couple of linebackers with a penchant for making big plays.

Arizona’s Scooby Wright has 33 tackles, including eight for losses — five of them sacks. Wright also has two forced fumbles, including one that decided the victory over Oregon.

USC’s Su’a Cravens was moved from safety to linebacker the last two games. He responded with 11 tackles, including 5 1/2 for losses, and two sacks.

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At the controls

USC quarterback Cody Kessler’s completion percentage dropped from 72% to 69.5% after the Trojans’ loss against Arizona State, but he still has not had a pass intercepted in 177 throws.

Kessler, who has passed for 10 touchdowns, also showed against Arizona State a growing willingness to scramble for yards, scoring on an eight-yard touchdown run that required a second effort.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Anu Solomon has been a revelation for Arizona. He has passed for 14 touchdowns, with four passes intercepted. He also has rushed for an average of 33 yards per game.

Solomon faces a USC defense that gave up 510 yards passing and a school-record five touchdown passes against Arizona State.

Up front

Leonard Williams is the only starting USC defensive lineman to record one of the Trojans’ eight sacks. USC is looking for more production from Antwaun Woods, Claude Pelon and Delvon Simmons.

Fifth-year senior tackles Mickey Baucus and Fabbians Ebbele lead an Arizona offensive line that has a combined 129 starts. The unit has given up 11 sacks.

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Carrying on

USC tailback Javorius Allen has rushed for more than 100 yards in all but one game this season.

Last week against Arizona State, Allen scored on a 53-yard touchdown run and finished with 143 yards and two touchdowns in a career-high 29 carries.

Sophomore Justin Davis has rushed for two touchdowns and has a touchdown reception.

Arizona running backs Terris Jones-Grigsby and Nick Wilson combined for 336 all-purpose yards against Oregon. Wilson, a freshman, has rushed for a team-best 574 yards and six touchdowns. Jones-Grigsby, a senior, averages 5.9 yards per carry and has three touchdowns.

Stretching the field

USC’s defense, which could not stop Arizona State receiver Jaelen Strong, will get another challenge from Arizona receivers Cayleb Jones, Austin Hill and Nate Phillips.

Jones has 32 receptions, six for touchdowns. He caught 13 passes in the Wildcats’ 49-45 victory over California. Hill, who caught a game-winning Hail Mary against California, has 18 catches, three for touchdowns. Phillips has 20 receptions, one for a touchdown.

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USC receiver Nelson Agholor has caught nine passes in three of the last four games. Last season, he had seven catches for 161 yards against Arizona. Freshman JuJu Smith has 18 receptions, junior George Farmer 13.

gary.klein@latimes.com

Twitter: @latimesklein


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