Recovery shot: Arizona on track if it beats USC

Wide receiver Shun Brown celebrates a first down last week at Oregon State.Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Wildcats seek 2-0 start in Pac-12 play

The Arizona football team, at the start of the 2018 season, is like a weekend golfer, forever scrambling in a mad hope to make par, dreaming of that one great shot.

Pretend the Wildcats' opener against BYU was the tee shot on an opening par 5. That was a duck hook into the rough. The second shot, the loss at Houston, buried in a sand trap.

There was only so much Arizona could do with its third shot -- a home game against FCS opponent Southern Utah -- but Kevin Sumlin's team did what it could and pitched back into the fairway. Hey, we've given ourselves a chance.

And then last week, the Cats played their best shot, winning 35-14 at Oregon State. They landed the ball on the green. Hey, we can still make par.

"We wanted to prove to each other who we were going to be the rest of the season," senior wide receiver Shawn Poindexter said of the win in Corvallis. "I think the defense came out and proved to us they really want to compete for a Pac-12 championship, and the offense obviously the same."

So, now comes the matchup against USC, Saturday night, 7:30 p.m. at Arizona Stadium. Despite going off course with its first two shots of the season, Arizona has managed to line up a long putt for par. In a football sense, it might even be more than par. If UA wins, it will be 2-0 in the Pac-12 and the Trojans -- preseason favorites in the South division -- will be 0-2.

You would have taken that before the season.

"It would just send a message that we're not a team to be messed with this year," right guard Bryson Cain said of a potential victory over USC. "I think, with Coach Sumlin and the right direction, we can really make a difference in the Pac-12."

Colorado, which defeated UCLA at home on Friday night, looks like the best team in the Pac-12 South right now. Right now. There's a long way to go. The Buffs still have to play at USC and Washington. Utah plays at Washington State and Stanford in its next two games.

Arizona can't control what happens with all that and more, but it can make its long putt Saturday night. And then it will be on to the next hole.

"As the season progresses, we're getting better and better," Poindexter said.