Arizona vs. USC: Three keys to this weekend's Pac-12 battle

Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE

Examining what the Wildcats must do well to pull the upset over No. 9 USC.

The Arizona Wildcats have a chance to become relevant once again this weekend when the USC Trojans come to town.

Win this game and the 'Cats are likely back in the top 25 polls. More importantly, they could control their destiny in the Pac-12 South race. Lose, though, and it'll be a tough road to make a respectable bowl game.

Here are three keys for the Wildcats on Saturday afternoon.

Start Fast: Arizona needs to put points on the board early against the Trojans. A large crowd is expected and the Wildcats are going to need them loud and rowdy throughout. If USC scores a couple of touchdowns early, UA basically loses their home field advantage. And as we all saw in the Oregon game, things can turn ugly for the 'Cats if they fail to convert in the opening quarter.

Blitz: UA ranks among the worst in the nation at pressuring and bringing down opposing quarterbacks, last weekend notwithstanding. With Matt Barkley calling the shots on Saturday afternoon, Arizona cannot afford to let the Heisman candidate sit back and pick the defense apart. Even if it means giving up a big play or two, defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel has to throw the book at Barkley and the Trojans to slow them down.

Win the special teams battle: As I mentioned on Pacific Takes earlier today, the winner of the special teams battle will probably win the game this weekend. UA has made a habit of boneheaded mistakes in recent years, whether it be missed field goals, muffed punts or a silly personal foul on the kicker.

If Arizona hopes to pull this upset, they cannot afford to repeat these mistakes. The Trojans are too good not to take advantage of them, and it'll likely be the difference in the game.

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