USC plays its first game under interim Coach Ed Orgeron, who begins an eight-game audition for the full-time job. Times staff writer Gary Klein examines the story lines:
Last season’s 39-36 loss at Arizona was a turning point for a USC team that had entered the game with a 6-1 record and was ranked No. 10.
USC lost five of its last six games, placing immense pressure on former coach Lane Kiffin and Athletic Director Pat Haden.
This game could be another turning point for USC.
Haden fired Kiffin after the Trojans’ 62-41 loss to Arizona State on Sept. 28. A victory for Orgeron would help restore the Trojans’ confidence and possibly spark a bowl run.
Air about them
USC quarterback Cody Kessler completed 20 of 29 passes for 295 yards and two touchdowns with two passes for interceptions in the loss at Arizona State.
Kessler is completing 64% of his passes, six for touchdowns, with four interceptions.
New play-caller Clay Helton is expected to give Kessler the opportunity to spread the ball around and use tight ends Xavier Grimble, Randall Telfer and Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick.
Arizona quarterback B.J. Denker has completed only 50% of his passes for 445 yards and two touchdowns with two passes for interceptions. Denker is averaging 70 yards rushing per game and has run for six touchdowns, including three of 30 yards or more.
Senior tailback Silas Redd, USC’s leading rusher in 2012, could make his season debut after sitting out the first five games while recovering from knee surgeries.
Sophomore Tre Madden will start. Madden rushed for 128 yards against Arizona State and is averaging 116.6 yards a game. Freshman Justin Davis rushed for 122 yards and three touchdowns against Arizona State. He has been nursing a sprained left ankle.
Arizona running back Ka’Deem Carey led the nation is rushing last season, when he ran for 119 yards and a touchdown against USC.
Carey sat out the opener against Northern Arizona because of a suspension. He is averaging 143.7 yards a game this season.
Daniel Jenkins has averaged 6.5 yards a carry and has scored a touchdown.
There’s a catch
Last season against Arizona, USC receiver Marqise Lee caught 16 passes for a Pac-12 Conference record 345 yards and two touchdowns.
Don’t expect a repeat performance. The Biletnikoff Award winner has not practiced since suffering a knee injury against Arizona State and is not expected to play.
Sophomore Nelson Agholor is averaging 17.5 yards per catch and has scored one touchdown. Senior De’Von Flournoy and freshman Darreus Rogers are nursing ankle injuries.
Samajie Grant has a team-best nine receptions, one for a touchdown, for Arizona.
USC statistically ranked as one of college football’s top defenses before Arizona State gained 612 yards and hung 62 points on the Trojans.
Much of the fallout from that performance was lost after Kiffin’s firing, but defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast said the Trojans have worked to correct their mistakes.
Linebacker Morgan Breslin is expected to sit out against the Wildcats because of a hip injury. Linebacker Dion Bailey has a team-best 28 tackles and two interceptions.
Arizona has intercepted seven passes, returning three for touchdowns. Safety Tra’Mayne Bondurant has returned two of his team-best three interceptions for touchdowns.
Defensive linemen Tevin Hood and Sione Tuihalamaka, linebacker Marquis Flowers and cornerback Shaquille Richardson are other defensive leaders for the Wildcats.
Just for kicks
Andre Heidari has made four of seven field-goal attempts for USC. Kris Albarado is averaging 40.7 yards per punt.
Jake Smith has made four of six field-goal attempts for Arizona. Drew Riggleman has averaged 36.5 yards per punt.