The top spot in the Pac-12 South is on the line this week as Utah hosts USC in a primetime game Saturday night at Rice-Eccles Stadium. The showdown should be another instant classic between both sides.
The Trojans escaped last year with a 28-27 victory after stopping the Utes on a two-point conversion attempt. The win was payback after Utah came from-behind to defeat USC 31-27 on a last-second touchdown inside Rice-Eccles Stadium in 2016.
USC holds an 11-5 lead in the series, however, the Utes have won the last two games in Salt Lake City. Whoever wins Saturday will put itself in the driver’s seat to represent the Pac-12 South in the Pac-12 Championship Game.
USC at Utah
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 20
Time: 6 p.m. MT
TV: Pac-12 Networks
Spread: Utah -6.5
Location: Rice-Eccles Stadium
Why Utah Will Beat USC
The Utes have won the last two meetings against USC at Rice-Eccles Stadium and I believe that trend will continue.
While USC had an impressive showing last week against Colorado — shutting down quarterback Steven Montez and star wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. — the team is still full of inexperienced players at key positions and has a hard time playing on the road.
The Trojans are also thin on defense with star linebacker Porter Gustin now out for the season after fracturing his ankle as well as Cameron Smith who will try and play after recently coming off a hamstring injury.
While USC is unbeaten at home this year, both of its losses so far have come on the road. And what a difference playing at home makes.
This year, the Trojans average 37.6 points per game at home. However, on the road, they average just 13.6 points per game.
A big part of USC’s struggles on offense is around its run game. Without a great run game, the Trojans have struggled and have relied on simply chucking the ball downfield in hopes its wide receivers will win the one-on-one matchups. This won’t work against Utah come Saturday night.
Through six games, USC’s leading rusher — Aca’Cedric Ware — has only had two games of rushing for more than 100 yards. And with a true freshman at quarterback in JT Daniels, establishing a run game will help take the pressure off Daniels fso he doesn’t feel like he has to do it all himself. Because when he feels it’s all up to him, the true freshman has made a lot of mistakes this season.
But good luck running the ball against this Utah defense. The Utes come in ranked No. 2 in the nation in rush defense, allowing just 74.8 yards per game. And with an extra day to prepare thanks to last week’s Friday night game as well as playing at home, the Trojan offense will be in for a long night.
Last-second victories have turned Utah-USC football games into must-see TV and Saturday’s game will certainly be no exception.
So far this season, the Trojans have been blown out twice, barely beat Washington State, struggled against Arizona and hung on to beat Colorado.
Safe to say, this isn’t your ordinary USC football team.
Counter that with the Utes playing their best football of the season, and the opportunity to take a major step forward to claiming that elusive Pac-12 South title, I just don’t see the Utes losing Saturday in what should be another sellout at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
Utah QB Tyler Huntley has been on fire throwing, catching and running for touchdowns. In his last two games in wins over Stanford and Arizona, the dual-threat quarterback has completed 31-of-40 passes for 400 yards to go with three touchdown passes.
With so many offensive weapons in running back Zack Moss (617 yards 7, TD’s) and wide receivers Britain Covey (39 catches, 405 yards) and Samson Nacua (167 yards, 2TD’s) just to name of few, Offensive Coordinator Troy Taylor has Utah’s offense rolling with back-to-back 40-point performances.
And with a defense that ranks No. 2 in the nation in rushing defense, No. 9 in total defense and No. 10 in scoring defense, the Utes will be lighting up the U after taking care of business against the Trojans.
Prediction: Utah 23, USC 16