Wildcats still underdogs after knocking off OregonPosted: Updated:
TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) -- Arizona entered the season unproven and unremarked.
Even after what they've accomplished the past two games, it seems the 10th-ranked Wildcats are still being underestimated, too.
Coming off a scintillating Hail Mary victory over California and a season-defining follow-up victory over No. 2 Oregon, Arizona still finds itself an underdog at home against Southern California on Saturday night.
"I'm glad we're the underdogs," Arizona safety Will Parks said. "That just keeps all the guys focused for the task at hand."
Arizona (5-0, 2-0 Pac-12) caught some attention on Sept. 20, when it scored 36 points in the fourth quarter and upended California 49-45 with a Hail Mary on the final play.
Even then, it was kind of viewed as a fluke. Arizona's defense didn't exactly play well and the Wildcats essentially needed a football miracle to pull out the victory.
Their win over Oregon last week changed perceptions - quite a bit.
Playing well on both sides of the ball, Arizona put its imprint on a wild college football season by beating the Ducks 31-24, in Eugene no less.
The victory moved Arizona from outside The Associated Press poll to No. 10 this week, the largest jump since the poll went to the Top 25 in 1989.
Even after beating Oregon, the oddsmakers aren't giving the Wildcats much love; they enter Saturday's home game as 2 1-2-point underdogs to USC.
And this week, they'll be playing a team hungry to get its season back on track.
Ranked No. 9 after beating Stanford on Sept. 6, the Trojans (3-2, 2-1) have lost two of their past three games, the last one in agonizing fashion - on a Hail Mary by Arizona State in the Coliseum last Saturday.
"It's over with," USC quarterback Cody Kessler said. "You never want to lose a game like that. It's real tough, but us complaining and whining about it is not going to change our won-loss record."
Here are a few things to look for when the Trojans play the Wildcats at Arizona Stadium:
EXPECT OFFENSE: Arizona and USC have played some wild games the past few years. The Trojans won last year's game 38-31 after jumping out to an early lead and holding off the Wildcats' charge. A year earlier, there was no stopping Arizona's comeback; the Wildcats scored 26 straight points to win 39-36. Both again have talented offenses, so another shootout could be on the way.
NOISE FACTOR: Arizona's student section is known as one of the louder groups in the Pac-12. USC is expecting them to be even rowdier than usual, so coach Steve Sarkisian has had noise piped in during practices this week. "We're just anticipating a hostile environment there," Sarkisian said. "A 7:30 kickoff, No. 10-ranked team in America on the road, national television. I know their students will be fired up. I want to make sure our guys are prepared for it."
RANKED ARIZONA: The Wildcats jumped into the polls this week for the first time since checking in at No. 24 the first week in November 2012. The last time Arizona was ranked in the top 10 was when it went up to No. 9 under previous coach Mike Stoops the week of Oct. 4, 2010. The Wildcats lost to unranked Oregon State later that week, so they'll be trying to avoid a similar letdown this year.
STOP THE RUN: A key for both defenses will be stopping the run. Arizona QB Anu Solomon has put up some big numbers through the air, but balance with the run game has given him the opportunity. Freshman Nick Wilson has had a superb start to the season, ranking 19th nationally with 574 yards rushing and six touchdowns. Similarly, Javorius Allen has taken some of the pressure off Kessler. He's 18th nationally with 576 yards and has scored four touchdowns.
SCORE EARLY, SCORE LATE: USC has been a fast-starting team, outscoring its first five opponents 52-7 in the first quarter. Conversely, Arizona is more of a closing team, outscoring opponents 125-63 in the second half, including a 28-point second half against Oregon and a 43-point effort against Cal.