Less than two weeks removed from Lane Kiffin’s firing, the USC Trojans begin a new era on Thursday as they welcome the Arizona Wildcats to Los Angeles Coliseum.
It marks the first game for interim head coach Ed Orgeron at the helm. Orgeron, 52, had a record of 10-25 in three seasons as head coach for Ole Miss from 2005-2007. He had previously served as an assistant with USC from 1998-2004, and then rejoined the program in 2010 under Kiffin as the defensive line coach.
Orgeron is expected to keep the position warm for whoever athletic director Pat Haden brings in for the 2014 season, but also to right a ship that has drastically sailed off course. Even with some of the best talent in the country, the Trojans are last in the Pac-12 in scoring offense with 26 points and 380.4 yards a game. Haden has stated that Orgeron is a candidate for the job in 2014, but it would probably take a dramatic USC turnaround for the final eight regular season games and a return to a bowl game for that to happen.
At 3-2, the Trojans are off to their worst start since 2002, including the 62-41 meltdown to Arizona State that proved to be Kiffin’s downfall. Top receiver Marqise Lee also suffered a knee injury, and while he’s improving, Lee isn’t expected to play against the Wildcats.
USC allowed 28 third-quarter points and committed four turnovers to Arizona State, with quarterback Cody Kessler completing 20-of-29 passes for 295 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions. Underclassmen rushers Tre Madden and Justin Davis combined for 250 rushing yards and four touchdowns. Madden also caught another two touchdowns off three receptions for 66 yards.
Senior Silas Redd could add another weapon to that young rushing corps, while making up for Lee’s absence. Redd led the Trojans with 905 rushing yards last year, and will make his season debut against Arizona after undergoing two procedures on his knee since spring practice.
The Wildcats are coming off their first loss of the season, a 31-13 letdown to Pac-12 rival Washington, on Sept. 28. Arizona surrendered a season-high 244 rushing yards, and quarterback B.J. Denker was intercepted twice.
Junior tailback Ka’Deem Carey compiled his third straight 100-yard game and his one touchdown extended his scoring streak to 12 consecutive games dating back to last season. Carey has rushed for 431 yards in three games this season, after rushing for an impressive total of 1,929 in 2012.
The Wildcats have also done an excellent job of protecting the football and forcing opponents into mistakes. With senior safety Tra’Mayne Bondurant’s tallying three of the team’s seven interceptions, the Wildcats are second in the Pac-12 with a plus-five turnover margin, while committing just four total turnovers.
The game kicks off at 10:30 p.m. ET and will be broadcast by Fox Sports 1. You can find the channel in your area here.
Betting Odds: USC favored by 6 points.
Over/Under: 48 points
Prediction: USC 34, Arizona 27