Believe it or not, USC (4-3, 1-2) will be facing dire straits this weekend against Utah in a game that could mean much more than just bragging rights with one of the newest teams in the Pac-12 conference.
Fresh off their disappointing second-half performance against Notre Dame, the Trojans must regain focus on the third week of games under Coach Orgeron facing a surprisingly physical Utah squad, that defeated then-No. 5 Stanford two weeks ago at home.
NCAA sanctions denied the USC Trojans bowl games in 2010 and 2011, but the program has not missed a bowl game due to win-loss record since 2000. Keep in mind that since the Trojans played Hawaii in the first week of the season, USC now plays 13 regular season games.
Injuries have played its tole on the depth of this roster, especially when sanctions have taken their tole. This is emphasize because news has already been released that two of the top TE's, one co-starting RB and two WR's that will be out this weekend leaving a major hole in Cody Kessler's passing arsenal.
That being said, these final six games could make or break the Trojans bowl chances in a year where expectations of 9 or 10 wins did not sound that lofty given the talent on both sides of the football coming into the fall.
Earlier this week Colin Cowherd held an interesting take on the NFL that I believe applies perfectly to this situation,"the biggest part of a players ability is rooted in their availability," pegging down one of the biggest concerns from the Trojans opening slate.
Luckily the Trojans have winnable games against Pac-12 dwellers Colorado (3-3, 0-3) and California (0-4, 1-6) both on the road, yet these presumed victories still leave the club one win short of the magic number for postseason play.
According to recent NCAA Bowl projections, even if the Trojans make the postseason they are still slotted for the New Mexico Bowl against San Jose State.
That being said, the schedule does not get much easier with tough home tests against 12th-ranked UCLA and 6th-ranked Stanford according to the first and most-recent BCS Standings in two of the final three games for the Coach Orgeron era this season.
Add to the fact that the Trojans must also travel to Corvalis, a place that has historically given USC fits, this weeks game against Utah could arguably become a must win
Back in 2010, USC traveled to Oregon State as the then-20th ranked squad before getting clobbered 36-7 by only mustering 255 yards of total offense. This season, Oregon State holds the most prolific passing tandem in the nation with Sean Mannion and Brandin Cooks putting up monstrous numbers through seven games this season
The 25th-ranked Beavers continue to light up the scoreboard, leading the nation in passing yards (442.1 YPG) against what has been to this point a questionable USC cornerback unit. Obviously tests with UCLA and Stanford will be tough, but the home-field advantage could fair well for a squad that plays extremely well on momentum.
Not to place too much worry or signs for concern around the program but USC has only scored 20 points in its last six quarters while losing the battle on the line of scrimmage against some of the less physical teams left on the schedule.
Things can always change and certainly expect the happy-go-lucky Trojans to come out of the gates with energy in front of their fan base, but to undersell the importance of defeating the Utes that may be without starting QB Travis Wilson would massively misrepresent what the actual state of affairs has become around the football program.