Pac-12 Races Starting To Heat Up
PHOENIX (CBS/AP) — Coming off an historic performance, Southern California quarterback Matt Barkley just might have quieted talks about his vanishing Heisman Trophy chances.
He’s also hoping to get the Trojans back in the national title picture.
Barkley looks to lead No. 10 USC to five straight wins for the first time in four years when it visits Arizona on Saturday.
USC (6-1, 4-1 Pac-12) is ninth in the BCS standings, but with No. 2 Oregon (7-0), Arizona State (5-2), UCLA (5-2), No. 5 Notre Dame (7-0) and a potential Pac-12 championship game still on the schedule, the Trojans figure to have an outside shot at the BCS championship game if they can run the table.
Barkley has to be feeling good heading into this meeting with Arizona (4-3, 1-3) after throwing for 298 yards and matching a career high with six touchdown passes in a 50-6 victory over Colorado last Saturday. He surpassed Matt Leinart’s school and conference records for career TD passes with 102.
“I think we have a much better feeling in our stomachs after this win, especially on the offensive side,” Barkley said. “The points we put on the board and the way we moved the ball … that’s something we can build on for the future.”
Next up is a trip to Arizona, where USC has won five straight matchups. The Trojans have taken nine of the last 10 meetings overall, winning 48-41 at home last season behind Barkley’s school-record 468 yards and four TDs on 32-of-39 passing.
“To me, he should be one of the leading contenders for the Heisman,” first-year Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez told the team’s official website. “He’s one of the best players in the history of the Pac-12. He looks like a tremendous leader.”
Arizona also has to deal with USC’s standout receiver tandem of Robert Woods and Marqise Lee, who leads the Pac-12 with 60 receptions and 784 receiving yards. Woods, the Trojans’ career receptions leader with 220, burned the Wildcats for 14 catches, a career-high 255 yards and two scores in last year’s meeting. Woods leads the Pac-12 with nine touchdown catches while Lee is second with eight
“Arizona has a great offense,” said USC WR Robert Woods. “They put alot of points. We got to match them and stop them on the defensive side.”
It all adds up to a tough matchup for an Arizona defense that has struggled throughout most of the season. The Wildcats, who snapped a three-game losing streak with a 52-17 win over Washington last Saturday, rank 11th in the Pac-12 in average yards allowed (464.7) and are tied for 10th in scoring defense (30.4).
“We have to play disciplined and stay home. Especially this week, because we can’t make the mistake of losing our gap,” freshman linebacker Sir Thomas Jackson said.
If anyone in the Pac-12 can match the explosiveness of the USC offense, it’s a Wildcats team that averages 39.1 points – second in the conference. Arizona ranks fifth in the nation in yards per game (548.7) and sixth in total yards (3,841).
Quarterback Matt Scott, running back Ka’Deem Carey and wide receiver Austin Hill lead the Wildcats’ prolific offense. Scott is fourth in the country with 2,355 passing yards and tied for 10th with 17 touchdown throws.
The Arizona attack should provide a tough test for USC, which is tied for second in the nation with 22 forced turnovers and fifth with 27 sacks. The Trojans have allowed 16.7 points per game, the 18th-best mark in the country.
USC has not posted five consecutive victories since ending the 2008 season on a 10-game run.