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Trojans at a crossroads
By Todd Harris
Special to

It's rare to have a "crossroads" game this early in the season, but that is exactly what the USC Trojans face this Saturday at the Coliseum against Arizona (ABC, 3:30 p.m. ET). I'm not saying that with a loss the Trojans have no chance of making it to the Rose Bowl, but close.

Sultan McCullough
Sultan McCullough and the Trojans hope to rebound this weekend against Arizona.
After last weekend's loss in Corvallis to the "for real" Oregon State Beavers, coach Paul Hackett's boys have broken ground on their own grave. There is time to begin the backfill process with a win over Arizona, but they will need a complete game to tame the 'Cats in the City of Angels. No team can run the table in the Pac-10 this year. There are just too many good teams to walk through conference play and not get a little dinged up on their way to the bowl season.

This also holds true for the national championship race -- again too many good teams to go undefeated, but the folks in Blacksburg, Lincoln and Tallahassee would probably disagree greatly with this opinion.

For the Trojans, the equation is simple -- get back to USC football. Swarm defense, ball control, patient offense, and stellar special teams play. It's that simple. This team has the tools and then some. Once quarterback Carson Palmer gets his confidence and knows he has the keys to a Porsche-like offense, he will be fine. Turn linebacker Zeke Moreno and Co. loose on defense, and let the special teams change a little momentum and ... presto USC is back in the hunt.

Easy on paper, whole different story on turf. The Arizona Wildcats come in as somewhat of an enigma. No one really accounted for them since they pulled a zombie-like season last year. Some games they looked great, other times less than what folks in Tucson are used to. Last year in Tucson, under a blazing sun, the Wildcats derailed the Trojans and sent the spirit of Troy down for an overhaul.

This year, no one expected Arizona to be undefeated in the Pac-10. No one thought USC would be coming off a loss in Corvallis of all places. However, that is precisely why they play the games.

So I offer you this: If the Trojans regain the swagger they had after taking down Penn State and Colorado, they could be back on track to the Promised Land found just off the CA-134 in Pasadena. However, if the Wildcats come to town in a bad mood, looking for respect -- watch out. Bottom line is that it is a classic scenario: one team seeking redemption and the other looking for respect. I will let you decide which team fits which role.

Make your decision and tune in Saturday 3:30 p.m. ET and let Keith Jackson, Tim Brant and yours truly walk you down the path to football heaven.

Todd Harris is a sideline reporter for ABC Sports and is a regular contributor to

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