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USC vs Utah Game Day primer: Notes, predictions and preview

SALT LAKE CITY — The stage is set for yet another pivotal Pac-12 South matchup between the Utah Utes and the Trojans of USC.

Coming off two of their best performances in recent memory, the Utes look to gain control of the South division. USC looks to once again end the hopes of the Pac-12 outsiders. 

The 4-2 Utes enter the homecoming tilt with a full head of steam. After a slow start to the season, Utah has performed as well as anyone in the conference over the past two weeks. A 40-21 win over then ranked No. 14 Stanford and a blowout over Arizona seem to have reenergized the crimson and white. That will need to continue Saturday night as they welcome a USC team that, albeit youthful, wields a wealth of NFL-caliber talent. With one of the top rated defenses in college football, Utah shouldn’t be intimidated. 


It’s an intriguing matchup no matter how you look at it. The Utes are No. 2 in the nation defending the run. SC has nearly abandoned the run already in 2018 and they have no shortage of weapons on the outside. On paper, it looks like the stout Utah defense has an opportunity to make USC one-dimensional offensively. That one-dimension, however, is still pretty potent. True freshman QB JT Daniels leads USC into Sack Lake City after three straight wins including one over South foe Colorado. The Trojans have been airing it out as of late, with 6 of Daniels’ 7 TD passes coming in the last three weeks. The freshman has seemed to gain some poise in recent games and his receivers haven’t hurt his case. His quartet of wideouts includes his high school teammate Amon-Ra St. Brown, Velus Jones Jr., Tyler Vaughn and Michael Pittman Jr. – all of whom have the ability to make plays all over the field. The improved spread attack could open up some lanes in the run game as well. USC has used a by-committee approach to running the ball with Aca’Cedric Ware, Stephen Carr and red zone specialist Vavae Malepeai. 

Defensively, the Trojans are ailing. They have multiple injuries in their front seven and have already lost their middleman, Porter Gustin, for the remainder of the season. They are USC, though, and still have plenty of talent on that side of the ball. 

GAME NOTES 

Kickoff @ 6p.m. on the Pac-12 Networks – Roxy Bernstein, Anthony Herron and Lewis Johnson have the call. 

ESPN700 will have game day coverage all day long leading up to kickoff with Bill Riley, Scott Mitchell and Tom Hackett. 

Follow along using #USCvsUTAH #GoUtes #UUThrowback

98th homecoming game in University of Utah football history. (59-34-4-)

Utah ranks No. 2 in the nation in rushing defense and red zone defense, No. 9 in total defense and No. 10 in scoring defense. 

Utes lead the Pac-12 in: rushing defense, pass efficiency defense, total defense and scoring defense. 

Utah have sold out 54 straight games in Rice-Eccles Stadium including every home contest since August of 2010.  

Utes have scored 40+ in the last two games, the first time they’ve done that since 2015 in wins over Fresno State (45-24) and Oregon (62-20). 

Battling for a national ranking? Both teams are among ‘others receiving votes’ in both the AP and Coaches’ polls. 

USC owns a 11-5 series advantage but Utah has split the last four including the last two in Salt Lake City. 

Utah senior LB Chase Hansen leads the Pac-12 and is tied for seventh in the nation in tackles for loss. 


Zack Moss’s 7 rushing TD’s is tied for second in the conference and 17th NCAA. His 102.8 yards-per-game is third in the Pac-12 and 19th NCAA. 

Connections

USC has three players from the state of Utah; OLB Porter Gustin, DL Jay Tufele and ILB Tyler Katoa. Utah has 31 Californians on its roster – I will not be listing them. 

Utah DT Jackson Cravens is the cousin of USC alums Su’a Cravens and Jordan Cameron. 

USC Special Teams Coordinator John Baxter is the son-in-law of former Utah HC Ron McBride. 

ESPN700 Predictions 

Bill Riley: UTAH 31 – 21 USC

Kyle Gunther: UTAH 34 – 24 USC

Ben Anderson: UTAH 27 – 17 USC

Porter Larsen: UTAH 35 – 20 USC

JP Chunga: UTAH 14 – 20 USC

Mitch Harper: UTAH 26 – 17 USC


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