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USC vs Utah Game Preview

Coming off a 30-27 overtime loss to BYU, USC now shifts focus to No. 11 Utah for a Friday night Pac-12 showdown.

NCAA Football: Southern California at Utah Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

There are a lot of questions that have to be answered following the USC Trojans overtime loss to BYU. They suffered the typical “let down” loss which now magnifies for the whole week. The Trojans return back home to face a tough opponent conference opponent in the No. 10 Utah Utes for a Friday night Pac-12 meeting. This game has big implications in the Pac-12 south where the winner could be the favorite in the division moving forward. A loss for USC could not only set them back in the Pac-12 south, but also possibly heat up head coach Clay Helton’s hot seat even more. However a win could boost the Trojans moving forward.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 14 USC at BYU Photo by Boyd Ivey/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images


The USC offense took a huge step back in the loss against BYU. Graham Harrell’s air raid was grounded after the Cougars dropped 8 players into coverage, daring the Trojans to run against their 3 man front. USC freshman Kedon Slovis looked very much like a true freshman in his first road start. He threw for 281 and 2 touchdowns, however he also threw 3 interceptions and forced a few throws. Michael Pittman Jr. managed to find success despite the quarterback play with his nine catches for 95 yards and two touchdowns.

USC turned to the run game where Vavae Malepeai, Stephen Carr, and Markese Stepp found some success on the ground. The Trojans rushed for 171 yards and averaged 3.8 yards per carry which was considered a problem considering BYU was daring USC to run the ball by dropping eight into coverage. Stepp provided a huge boost averaging 5.9 yards per carry which left many wondering “why didn’t USC give him more carries?”.

Utah’s defense will present a very stiff challenge to the USC offense. Their defensive line led by senior defense end Bradlee Anae and Leki Fotu will be a handful for the Trojans offensive line to deal with. Last season the Utes defense was No. 1 against the run and gave USC fits in last years meeting. Considering the USC offensive line had issues with Khyiris Tonga on Saturday, they will have their hands full with the Utah defensive line unit.

They could also follow BYU’s game plan in dropping 7 into coverage to fluster Slovis and the passing game. Utah has given up over 500 yards through the air, however they currently have 4 interceptions and two defensive touchdowns. Senior cornerback Jaylon Johnson could find himself covering either Amon-Ra Sr. Brown, Micheal Pittman Jr. or Tyler Vaughns. This also will be the best offense Utah has faced this season so far.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 14 USC at BYU Photo by Boyd Ivey/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images


Defensively USC issues mirrored a lot of what happened in 2018. They were put in bad spots early on due to offensive issues and gave up critical points, Large part of that was due to the mobility of quarterback Zach Wilson. It was merrily a repeat of their week one game against Fresno State. The Cougars utilized outside run plays and Wilson’s mobility to gain yards and make the key plays to get the win over the Trojans. Another problem was the lack of pressure on the quarterback. Yes Wilson mobility made it difficult to tackle, but he also had a lot of time to scan the field and make passes to move the BYU offense.

One of the biggest issues was the tackling once again. It seemed as if the USC defense and tackling just don’t go hand in hand which is odd. With Utah running back Zack Moss coming to town, the Trojans will have to fix that issue and fast.

Utah’s offense won’t set the world on fire, but they tend to get the job done. Quarterback Tyler Huntley presents another tough challenge with his mobility and considering how USC has had issues with containing the first two they’ve face, you wonder if any adjustments will be made. Utah relies on their physical running game anchored by Zack Moss. USC’s defensive line has shown the ability to slow down the inside run game, but do struggle with reverses and outside runs. Utah could opt to throw that at the Trojans defense. Last season, Moss rushed for 134 yards on 25 carries against USC.

The USC secondary will be key here if the Trojans force Utah to beat them through the air. While they weren’t the worst out last week, they did have a few break downs of allowing the big play, much like they did against Fresno State. Tight End Brant Kuithe, wide receiver Britain Covey, and Jaylen Dixon will be key players in the Utes passing game. Huntley showed his ability to throw against USC in their last meeting. In Salt Lake City, Huntley went 22-29 throwing for 341 yards and four touchdowns in the Utes victory over the Trojans.

Utah v USC Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

Key Notes

-USC leads the all time series 11-6-0.

-Utah defeated USC 42-28 in last season’s meeting. The Utes won the Pac-12 South.

- This will be the second Friday game played at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Last season USC defeated Washington State at home on Friday night.

- Utah has never defeated USC inside the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Their last victory in L.A. against the Trojans came in 1916 at Fiesta Park in Downtown Los Angeles.

- The home team have won the last six meetings during the series. The last time the road team won was 2012 where USC defeated the Utes 38-28 in Salt Lake City.

- A Utah victory will give them the longest winning streak over the Trojans since 1915-1916. The first time the two programs met.

- Utah is currently a -4 point favorite over USC. The Trojans are 2-11 against the spread as an underdog under head coach Clay Helton.