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The Three Best USC-Utah Football Games

After almost a century of relatively boring games, this matchup seems to usually determine who wins the PAC-12 south

USC v Utah Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images

USC has played Utah 16 times, leading the series 11-5. Their first two matchups were in 1915 and 1916, which Utah won 20-13 and 27-12 respectively. USC then dominated the next ten games of the series, winning nine out of ten by a combined score of 283 to 85. But the last four years, every game has either been close or exciting. Here are the three best games in the USC-Utah series.

3. The Cameron Smith Game (2015)

A struggling USC team headed to the coliseum to take on an undefeated, third ranked Utah team that had beaten 13th ranked Oregon 62-20 earlier in the season. USC promptly dominated the game from start to finish, winning 42-24 and leading at one point by as many as 25. True freshman Cameron Smith had a hat trick of interceptions, running one back for a touchdown and returning the three for an average of 41 yards.

Utah v USC
Cameron Smith after his big game
Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Su’a Cravens added an interception while Juju Smith-Schuster caught eight passes for 143 yards and a touchdown while delivering one of the most legendary stiff arms ever. After calling out a trash talking Utah defensive back mid-play, Juju promptly threw him off the field. Utah would finish the regular season 9-3 and win their bowl game, but it was USC who earned the right to get killed by Stanford in the PAC-12 title game because of their head-to-head win over Utah.

2. The Comeback (2017)

USC trailed 21-7 at the half after three Sam Darnold fumbles, including one ran back for a touchdown. But USC would come all the way back to take the lead 28-21, led by their defense, which allowed Utah to run just 20 plays in the second half until the final drive. That’s when Utah marched down the field on 11 plays for 75 yards, scoring a touchdown with 42 seconds left. Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham would roll the dice and go for two and the win. Utes quarterback Troy Williams would look, scramble, try to take it in himself, and be stopped short by corner back Ajene Harris. USC would celebrate the win, but Williams had a wide-open receiver in the back of the end zone that he never saw.

Utah v USC
Tyler Petite scores a touchdown in the first quarter
Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

1. Heartbreak in Salt Lake (2016)

In a game that will always be looked at as “if only we’d won that game,” Darnold would lose his first start as a Trojan 31-27. In a season that could not have started any worse (1-2, blowout losses to Alabama and Stanford), USC looked to stay in the PAC-12 South race and turn their season around. They looked well on their way after a field goal at the start of the fourth quarter to extended their lead to ten. Instead, USC would blow the lead, and with 16 seconds left, Adoree Jackson would fall down as Tim Patrick caught the game winning touchdown.

USC v Utah
Utah sideline celebrates their last second win
Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images

What hurt for USC was what came after this game. They would reel off eight straight regular season wins to finish 9-3, but would fail to win the south over Colorado, who they beat head-to-head. A Utah win over Colorado in the final regular season PAC-12 game would have sent the Trojans to a rematch with Washington in the title game, who they dominated on the road 26-13, but instead Utah would break USC’s heart again, losing to Colorado. If USC had beaten Utah, they would have finished the regular season 10-2, and a win in the PAC-12 title game would have put them at 11-2. The playoff committee would then have to choose between a two loss PAC-12 champion USC or a two loss Big Ten champion Penn State to get the fourth spot for the playoffs. Considering USC beat Penn State in the rose bowl that year, it would be fair to say USC would have deserved that final spot. But instead, because of that night in Salt Lake City, any dreams of a national title, playoff, or PAC-12 championship were crushed by the Utes.


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