How to evaluate Arizona

LOS ANGELES -- Arizona's a good team, right?

The Wildcats' blowout wins over Oklahoma State and Washington would seem to indicate so, and even their close losses to top-25 teams Oregon State and Stanford would support that assertion.

But then there's the big, fat, undeniable blemish on their resume so far: that 49-0 road loss to Oregon last month. Good teams don't lose by almost 50 points to other teams, no matter where and when the game takes place.

USC coach Lane Kiffin, who has repeatedly referred to the Wildcats as a good team this week leading up to the Trojans' game against them Saturday, tried to rationalize that Oregon loss after Thursday's practice.

"If you look at the turnover margin, how lopsided it was, it was just one of those games where things just started going ... things just started going that direction," Kiffin said.

"Then they went for it a couple times down there, figuring they needed to score touchdowns instead of getting field goals."

Oregon won the turnover margin, 5-3. The Ducks also scored two of their touchdowns on interception returns and led just 13-0 at halftime. The Wildcats also went 0-for-4 on fourth-down conversion attempts, which helped Oregon run up the score even more.

But still: 49-0?

"Look, that's not the first time that's happened to good teams in Eugene at night," Kiffin said, defending his position. "There's a reason why, outside of us, they haven't lost at home for a couple years.

"There's a reason for that."

Indeed, the Ducks have won their last 27 straight games at home, not counting last November's USC upset victory. So, the reason is not that Arizona is an average or below-average team, according to Kiffin. It's simply that Oregon is just that good.

In other words: Yes, Kiffin thinks that 49-0 outcome should be totally disregarded in evaluating the Trojans' next opponent.