Of the USC Trojans football schedule this season, no game stood out brighter than this Saturday’s game in Salt Lake City against the Utah Utes.
The yearly crosstown rivalry is always a must-watch but when two top teams in the conference face-off, it’s a game that can make a team gain confidence or shatter a team’s confidence.
In the case of the No. 20 Trojans, who are 2-0 by way of a little luck, a win against the Utes would be a confidence booster and a loss would shatter them. In the case of Utah, who hasn’t played a game yet this season, a win can be a major confidence booster and would help them climb the standings for a chance at the Pac-12 title against the winner of the North division. A Utah loss would likely just give them the motivation to fight on.
The Utes were ranked in the AP Top 25 for most of the season and finished with an 11-3 overall and 8-1 conference record last season and lost to the Oregon Ducks in the Pac-12 championship game. Their sole conference loss in the regular season was to the Trojans, 30-23, in mid-September.
This year, they’ve been plagued with bad luck after too many scholarship players on the team tested positive for coronavirus and they were unable to field a team with the minimum amount of scholarship players per conference rules. They had their first two games canceled — at home against Arizona, and at UCLA.
It hasn’t been easy for Utah football, but we know something for sure at the moment — the game on Saturday is scheduled to be played.
USC is 12-6 all-time against Utah dating back to the first game in 1915, and they are 6-3 against head coach Kyle Whittingham dating back to 2011.
Utah football put together a depth chart for their Week 1 matchup that may or may not look the same for Week 3. Their depth chart had senior quarterback Drew Lisk Jr. starting over graduate transfer quarterback Jake Bentley, who injured his foot last season at South Carolina. While Bentley has started and played in more than 30 games in his four-year college career, Lisk has only played in two games.
Their starting running back, junior Devin Brumfield, is entering his second season with the Utes and spent last season as one of the backups for, now, Buffalo Bills’ running back Zack Moss, only rushing for 263 yards on 59 attempts, and two touchdowns in 12 games. Brumfield did take on the majority of the carries against the Trojans last season and finished the game with 63 yards on 10 carries.
The Utes’ starting receivers on paper are juniors Bryan Thompson, Solomon Enis, and Britain Covey. The three of them combined for just over 40 receptions and about 700 yards altogether last season, with Thompson snagging under 500 yards by himself.
Despite all of these statistics and projected depth chart, there’s no certainty of who is available to play because the names of those that tested positive haven’t been released.
The USC running game needs to step up its consistency against Utah in order to give the Trojans a chance at winning the battle on offense because they haven’t been able to keep the opposing defense guessing on plays.
USC sophomore quarterback Kedon Slovis needs to continue throwing for over 300 yards but needs to keep his completion percentage above 70.
The Trojans defense has to hold their opponent to field goals and try to force turnovers whenever they can against a team that hasn’t played this season. They’ve given up about 215 yards a game on the ground, so fixing that would make the game easier for them.
On the other side, Utah needs to run the ball well and take advantage of the downfalls of the USC defensive line. If the running game can contribute 200 yards and the passing game can contribute 150 yards, Utah has a chance to upset.
Head coach Clay Helton has the staff and the players to give them a solid chance of winning the Pac-12 championship, but they have to tighten their mistakes and take advantage of their opponent.
Utah will host USC on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and the Trojans are a 3-point favorite in the game.