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Arizona coach Rodriguez leery of date with ‘re-energized’ USC

LISTEN: Rich Rodriguez, UA head football coach

By most accounts, the USC Trojans are a mess.

They’re off to a disappointing 3-2 start, with the most recent game being a 62-41 loss in Tempe to the Arizona State Sun Devils. It was the nail in head coach Lane Kiffin’s proverbial coffin, as athletic director Pat Hayden elected to dismiss the coach upon the team’s return to Los Angeles from Arizona.

And now, with former defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator Ed Orgeron taking over on an interim basis, the Trojans have nearly two weeks to prepare for a visit from the Arizona Wildcats.

“When it happened, I’m like ‘Ahh, why now,'” Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez told Arizona Sports 620’s Doug and Wolf Tuesday about the news Kiffin was fired. “First off, many people have seen it, it happened here when Mike got let go.

“A team, all of a sudden with a coaching change and an open date, they get re-energized.”

Rodriguez said it leads to teams playing “free and loose” and with more motivation, which he believes will happen for USC.

It did for the Wildcats two years ago.

Mike Stoops, who had coached Arizona since 2004, was dismissed on Oct. 10, 2011. Ten days later, the Wildcats dismantled a decent-but-not-great UCLA team by a score of 48-12 in Tucson on national TV. It was not as if suddenly the team added more talent, but rather the emotion of the situation helped to galvanize the underachieving squad.

Rodriguez added removing Kiffin, who was also the team’s play-caller, adds more mystery to what exactly the Trojans may try to do offensively.

But even with the change, this is still a very talented team.

“They talked about they only had 56 scholarship players, whatever, when they went to ASU,” Rodriguez said of USC. “Well we only had 53, and we didn’t have any sanctions when we went up to Washington.

“Their 56 includes a whole lot of five-stars and four-stars, so they’ve still got players.”

And Rodriguez’s team, which is coming off a 31-13 loss in Washington, will have to contend with a roster the coach and his players, who have seen what USC can do on film, will not take lightly.

“They may not be as deep as maybe they’ve been in the past because of some of the numbers and some of the injuries, but at the same time, their defensive line is eight-deep and all eight could play for, I think, anybody in the country,” he said. “We were very fortunate last year when they were here.

“We got a couple big plays and they had some turnovers that allowed us to win it, but this is as talented a team as there is in our league.”