By Steven Herrera
The USC Trojans are in the midst of a tumultuous season, to say the least. Coming in ranked in the top ten nationally and being a heavy favorite to win the Pac-12, a season full of potential and promise has quickly turned into a nightmare for USC. The Trojans currently find themselves fifth in the Pac-12 south having lost two games in a row and three out of five. On top of their troubles on the field, the Trojans are also dealing with the recent firing of Steve Sarkisian and all the stress that comes along with a mid-season firing. Taking all that into consideration, there is no doubt USC will be in desperation mode when the undefeated Utes enter the Coliseum this Saturday.
Despite an overall record of 3-3, which includes victories against Arkansas State and Idaho, the Trojans open up as favorites against Utah. This is a clear indication that USC is still a dangerous team and cannot be taken lightly. Averaging 38 points and 510 yards per game, the Trojan offensive attack is still explosive and can move the ball in a hurry. Quarterback Cody Kessler is one of the best in the conference and capable of keeping USC in games with his arm. It doesn’t hurt having wide receivers like Juju Smith-Schuster and Steven Mitchell catching passes. The duo has combined to catch 11 of Kessler’s 17 touchdown passes. During his time on offense, sophomore defensive back, Adoree Jackson, has proven as dangerous as anyone, taking two passes for touchdowns of 80 yards or longer. Jackson is also a dangerous return man. Utah fans might remember Jackson taking a kickoff 100 yards for a score last year at Ric- Eccles. On top of that, USC has capable runners in Tre Madden, Ronald Jones, and Justin Davis. The three tailbacks each average over 6 yards per rush this season thus far and have combined to score nine touchdowns.
On defense, USC is struggling against quality opponents, giving up 41 points to Stanford and Notre Dame. The run defense was nonexistent in both games, giving up around 200 yards in those contests. Arizona State also had success running the ball against USC in their loss. This plays right into the hands of Utah and Devontae Booker, who should have a big game. The Trojans secondary has been exposed in previous games and can be beat as well. Even though the defensive backs have big play capabilities (especially Adoree Jackson), they failed to intercept a pass against Notre Dame and only came down with one against Washington despite 33 passing attempts. Missed tackles have also proven to be a problem for USC at times and have cost them dearly. Overall the defensive unit has not played consistently good enough despite all the talent on that side of the ball. Linebacker Su’a Cravens is a playmaker the Utes will have to be aware of. The junior has a knack for getting in the backfield to create pressure on QB’s and tackle runners for a loss. Some familiar faces in freshman Osa Masina and Porter Gustin will be lining up against the Utes as well.
It’s worth noting that USC has a few notable injuries heading into the game against Utah. Center Max Tuerk is out for the season with a knee injury and receiver Steven Mitchell did not play last week against Notre Dame with an ankle injury.