Getting To Know USC’s Week 6 Opponent: Utah Utes
Saturday the USC Trojans host the Utah Utes in a late Saturday game that should be a competitive bout. Like the Trojans, Utah beat the Washington State Cougars 24-13 last week. USC handled the Colorado Buffaloes last week in a 37-14 win. The Trojans are three-point favorites so Vegas has this game slated to be closer than most think.
2020 Season Review
Last Year was a shortened season or “Covid Season” if you will. And many teams, especially the Pac-12, had a few games canceled due to the pandemic. Coach Kyle Whittingham and the Utes managed a 3-2 record. They were third in the Pac-12 south behind first-place USC and second-place Colorado. Utah had seven players selected in the 2020 NFL Draft. Notable players selected were cornerback Jaylon Johnson, safety Julian Blackmon, and running back Zack Moss.
Key Additions And Departures
After Running back Ty Jordan tragically passed away on Christmas Night, coach Whittingham was left with a whole on his team, much more so than just on the field. Rest in peace and condolences to his family.
So Kyle went out and grabbed running backs, TJ Pledger and Chris Curry. TJ Pledger played for the Oklahoma Sooners but was never used enough to see his true potential. TJ has run for 695 yards and six touchdowns with 451 yards and five touchdowns coming from just last season.
The bigger of the two running backs, Chris Curry coming in a 5’11 220 pounds, didn’t have as much production as LSU but his size and time at an SEC program should prove useful with the Utes.
TJ is currently listed as the second-string running back behind freshman Micah Bernard.
Oklahoma transfer Theo Howard, who had over 1,500 yards and 10 touchdowns, is currently the starting X receiver for Andy Ludwig and this Utah offense. Aside from Safety Brandon Mckinney, who transferred from Washington, Theo Howard has a huge opportunity to make an impact on this offense.
The biggest story for the Utes this season seems to be QB Charlie Brewer, who transferred from Baylor and had a less than impressive 2020 season with 1,900 yards passing with 14 touchdowns. What caused the nation and Utah to take notice was his 2019 season where he had 3,000 yards and 20 touchdowns with only six interceptions.
Unfortunately, three days after Utah lost a heartbreaker to San Diego State in triple overtime, Brewer decided to leave the Program.
Utah has had a few departures such as running backs Devin Brumfield and Jordan Wilmore along with defensive lineman Pita Tonga and quarterback Jake Bentley. They also had transfers from Baylor in Brewer and Ja’Quinden Jackson from Texas.
Utah currently has the 90th ranked offense in the country with 366 yards a game with only 12 total touchdowns. In the Pac-12, Utah has the 8th ranked total offense with only 803 yards passing along with 663 yards rushing.
As you know, stats aren’t everything and should always be taken with a grain of salt. Utah always seems to be prepared to play games against programs that are predicted to win on paper.
Coach Whittingham, who’s been with this program since 2005, always has his players ready to play regardless. The two losses that coach Whittingham has suffered this year have come from an excellent BYU squad who’s ranked 10th in the nation and is the better of the two programs. That game they only lost by nine points and Utah’s starting freshman running back had a day with 12 carries for 146 yards.
The second loss, as I mentioned above, was the triple-overtime loss to SDSU. Brewer who was benched at halftime was replaced by who is now the starting former Texas quarterback Cam Rising. Cam Rising had led the Utes back into the game after they were down 24-10.
Rising seems to have a firm grip on the starting job this year, however, it seems like they’d be comfortable going with freshman Ja’Quinden Jackson, who’s from Texas as well, if things don’t go as planned.
Overall this team has and will most likely have a bright future under this staff and athletic director Mark Harlan. This week, as the same as others, USC should not look past or take this game lightly as this Utah squad has shown to be dangerous at times.
History Against The Trojans
This will be the 20th time these two teams meet with the series in USC’s favor 13-6. The last time these two teams played was last year in November where the Trojans won 33-17. The last time Utah won was in 2018 where Utah throttled USC 41-28. Coach Williams looks to add another win to the season and to his head coaching resume.