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'tis The Season

December 05, 2009|Gary Klein

No. 20 USC (8-3, 5-3) VS.

ARIZONA (7-4, 5-3)

Today at the Coliseum,

12:30 p.m., Channel 7

A Holiday Bowl bid is probably on the line for both USC and Arizona in the regular-season finale. Times staff writer Gary Klein looks at some of the game's key issues.

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Passing through

USC quarterback Matt Barkley's last pass was a controversial one, but it went 48 yards for a touchdown against UCLA so the freshman enters today with some confidence after struggling for much of the second half of the season.

Barkley has completed 59% of his passes, with 12 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in 10 starts.

As Tom Duddleston, Arizona's sports information director, wrote in his always entertaining pregame notes: "For the first time in awhile, Arizona enters the USC game with a QB (Nick Foles) holding a higher pass efficiency rating than the SC dude."

Foles, a transfer from Michigan State, did not start the first three games, but he is completing 67% of his passes and has 17 touchdowns with seven interceptions.

Terrell Turner has 47 catches and is the leader among five Arizona players with more than 30. Juron Criner has scored eight touchdowns.

Damian Williams, USC's top receiver, won't be among the 22 Trojans seniors honored before the game, but the draft-eligible junior, who has 50 catches and six touchdown receptions, could be making his final Coliseum appearance.

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On the run

USC tailback Joe McKnight needs only 21 yards rushing to become the first Trojan to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark since 2005.

McKnight suffered a thigh bruise against UCLA, but he will start against the Wildcats.

Allen Bradford, who rushed for two touchdowns against the Bruins, could assume a heavier workload if McKnight is slowed.

With Nic Grigsby nursing a shoulder injury, Keola Antolin is expected to be the Wildcats' main ballcarrier. Antolin is averaging 5.7 yards a carry and scored on a 67-yard run last week against Arizona State.

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On the line

USC's offensive line will have a new configuration as Arizona native Kristofer O'Dowd returns to the starting lineup at center. Jeff Byers moves back to left guard and Butch Lewis switches to right guard, his fourth position this season.

Tackles Charles Brown and Tyron Smith could have their hands full with the Wildcats' defensive line.

Arizona end Ricky Elmore leads the Pacific 10 Conference with 10.5 sacks and tackle Earl Mitchell also is a force.

USC defensive end Everson Griffen has eight of the Trojans' conference-best 33 sacks.

Arizona's offensive line has given up only 11 sacks.

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Happy returns

Arizona's William "Bug" Wright ranks first in the nation in punt returns, with an average of 19.2 yards in 11 returns. He returned one for a touchdown.

USC's Williams ranks sixth. He has averaged 16.1 yards in 21 returns and has scored two touchdowns.

USC is third in punt-return defense, Arizona 116th among 120 major college teams.

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Late-season finish

The season-ending matchup, brokered by ABC, has both teams finishing their seasons in uncommon fashion -- against an opponent other than a traditional rival.

USC last finished a season against a team other than UCLA in 2003, when the Trojans defeated Oregon State, 52-28, at the Coliseum.

Arizona is playing a team other than Arizona State in its finale for the first time since 1986, when the Wildcats lost to Stanford, 29-24, in Tokyo, in what was then known as the Coca-Cola Bowl.

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gary.klein@latimes.com

twitter.com/latimesklein

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By the numbers

*--* USC CATEGORY ARIZ. 27.5 Scoring 30.5 20.4 Points given up 23.7 217.8 Passing offense 240.2 176.6 Rushing offense 175.2 394.4 Total offense 415.4 209.4 Passing defense 209.4 135.5 Rushing defense 109.6 344.8 Total defense 318.9 *--*

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