Who doesn’t love a little bit of sweet, sweet revenge?
If you do, and you’re a USC Trojans fan — well, you might be in luck this weekend.
The Trojans have the chance to avenge its only defeat on the season, a heartbreaking 43-42 road defeat to Utah on Oct. 15. The Utes needed a last-minute two-point conversion (and some questionable penalty calls to go their way, but we can move past that) to take the lead and eventually defeat USC in Salt Lake City.
But that doesn’t really matter anymore. After consecutive rivalry wins over UCLA and Notre Dame over the last two weeks, the Trojans still control their own destiny. With a win on Friday in Las Vegas in a rematch against Utah, USC is all but guaranteed its first College Football Playoff berth.
Exactly one year ago this week, USC hired head coach Lincoln Riley away from Oklahoma at the end of a Trojans 4-8 season. And just one season into his tenure, Riley has already completed one of the greatest turnarounds in college football history.
Who would’ve ever thought this would happen? Riley said after Saturday’s win over Notre Dame that he didn’t put a limit on the team’s immediate goals, but it seemed like most people inside the program didn’t expect this type of instant success. It’s already unprecedented how far the Trojans’ program has come in a year, and it could get even better.
That being said, we all know one simple truth: the Pac-12 will cannibalize itself. We’ve seen it before, and we will see it again, even as the conference crumbles due to conference realignment. And Utah is very much capable of doing just that, as we saw a month and a half ago. So, let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves.
There are plenty of things USC will have to do in order to get revenge, get a title, get a playoff berth, and get over that mountain of Pac-12 cannibalization — all those aspects mentioned above. You’re probably familiar with the Utes by now anyways, so let’s just get straight to the keys to the game.
Keys to a USC Revenge Win
First, Trojan quarterback Caleb Williams has to keep being Caleb Williams. Despite the loss, he had 438 total yards and five touchdowns in the first Utah game, which kicked off a six-game stretch up to the present that has practically assured him the Heisman Trophy. He’s likely going to need to keep that pace for his team to keep rolling, as the Trojans’ defense has proved to be unreliable.
Speaking of the USC defense, it has to stop Utah tight end, Dalton Kincaid, this time around. He went bananas in the first matchup, with a ridiculous stat line of 16 catches for 234 yards and a touchdown. The Trojans will need their best coverage linebacker Eric Gentry to be healthy in order to at least limit Kincaid’s production.
Next, USC needs to control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. Its offensive line has been playing very well as of late and will need to keep doing so against a solid Utah defensive front. The Trojans’ run defense, after being dreadful for most of the season, has shown up the last two weeks against a pair of top-tier rushing teams in Notre Dame and UCLA. If USC can especially contain Utah quarterback Cameron Rising, who had three rushing scores against the Trojans last month, the Utes might have some difficulty in the red zone.
That leads us to the final key: Turnovers. At plus-22, USC has the best turnover margin in the FBS in a season since Georgia Southern in 2018. One reason Utah was able to hang with USC in their previous shootout was that the Utes turned the ball over just once. If the Trojans force multiple turnovers this time around while Williams continues to protect the ball, it would be surprising if Utah wins Friday’s matchup.
In the end, USC simply has to keep doing what it’s been doing the past few weeks, and it should find itself with a College Football Playoff berth on Sunday. That is exactly what will happen, as Williams’ current play should simply be too much for the Utes to handle.