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December 1, 2009

Arizona offense provides multiple challenges

The USC defense has had its share of problems this season, especially over the past month or so. Oregon State, Oregon and Stanford all did the previously unthinkable.

They made the Trojan defense look bad.

With major bowl implications on the line Saturday, could the Arizona offense present similar problems? Unfortunately, history says yes.

USC's defensive struggles this season have been isolated to the three games in the Pac-10 previously mentioned, and all three of those offenses share traits with the Wildcat attack.

For starters, the Wildcats can run the ball, and they can pass it.

Arizona's offense ranks fifth in the Pc-10 in rushing average and second in pass offense. Overall, the Cats are averaging 414.7 yards and 30.5 points per game on offense.

"We just have to make sure we're on point," linebacker Michael Morgan said. "They do stuff that's given us trouble before."

Plus there's the issue of how Arizona gains those yards. The Wildcat offense runs a version of the spread similar to Oregon and also uses some power running like Stanford.

"They've got a really unique offense," Pete Carroll said. "They do some classic stuff in the running game and their play actions... Then they have a big influence of their spread offense as well.

"So they have a real spectrum of things that they do that's a little unusual in that sense. They have a wide-open throwing game as they spread it out n their four-receiver looks. Then they play hardball in their other looks."

Arizona will be at a loss not having Nic Grigsby on the field, the Wildcats' leading rusher and top big-play threat. Still, Keola Antolin and Greg Nwoko aren't afraid to run physically, playing to Arizona's preferences in the running game.

Arizona head coach Mike Stoops said losing Grigsby does upset the balance of their offense some.

"Nic is a homerun guy. He can make people miss. You don't have to block all 11. He can create a play with his feet. Our other backs are more traditional," Stoops said. "It hurt us a little bit. Nic's been a steadying force in our running game. We've had to adjust a little bit.

"I think it's going to be critical on Saturday to try and have balance."

Between Arizona's balance and their multiple offensive philosophies, the USC defense will have its hands full.

"They present a lot of problems for us," Carroll said. "We have a big preparation in store here to get ready for this thing. They've scored a lot of points this year and done a lot of good stuff with their offense."


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