This conference is too hard to get through unscathed, and Utah learned that on Saturday night as USC stomped them by a score of 42-24.
It was a game where Utah reverted back to it's form of 2 years ago, melting under pressure, and looking overmatched by superior athletes. It was a game where Travis Wilson did the same, throwing 4 interceptions, more than doubling up his season total to now 7. It was a game where Utah inexplicably went away from the horse in Devontae Booker, giving him only 14 carries against a USC defense that had struggled to stop the run in recent weeks against inferior backs and offensive lines. It was a game where injuries exposed Utah as a team that needs to be healthy to compete at the highest level, especially on the defensive side of the ball. It was a game that showed that Utah isn't ready to compete for a college football playoff spot yet.
Bad Travis. Bad. Go lay down. Statistically, it wasn't that bad if you ignore the 4 interceptions going 24 of 36 for 254 yards, but Wilson didn't look comfortable after that first quarter and outside of Britain Covey making plays, Wilson didn't have much to throw to. The receivers were locked down all night long and the dump-offs to Booker weren't effective when they needed to be. This Travis will have trouble winning at Arizona, despite their poor defense, because that game will likely be a shootout. This Travis will have trouble on the road at Washington against a very good defense. This Travis will not beat UCLA (assuming average or better UCLA shows up). Utah needs Travis Wilson to play like a 4th year senior in big games if they want to win the South. That didn't happen on Saturday night.
Where'd you go Devontae Booker? With USC's defense giving up yardage like the state of North Dakota is giving away jobs in recent weeks, you'd think the Utes would try to pound the ball over and over and over. Booker's 14 carries and 20 touches are 10-15 short of where he should have been. You throw to get back in the game late in the 3rd and in the 4th. Utah seemed to abandon the run too early as theri final 13 offensive plays of the first half produced a total of ZERO carries for Booker. At a time when they needed to slow things down, get back to doing what they do best, and change the momentum the best way they know how, Utah went to the air, and it didn't work. Poor coaching. Poor game plan. Poor adjustments.
Come back Jared Norris. Come back soon. Boy, was he missed. Jason Whittingham had a few nice plays, but also missed a ton of tackles and Uaea Masina looked overmatched throughout the game. It's not that the USC running game was killing them, as the Utes had multiple short yardage stops or tackles for loss. It was the critical pickups of 6 and 7 yards that gave them short 2nd down options and let them open up the playbook in the passing game, and Cody Kessler and company took advantage. The playmaking ability of Norris is often understated. His absence was apparent as Gionni Paul can only do so much by himself.
Tevin Carter needs a medic. He looked old, slow, broken, injuried, hobbled, whatever on Saturday, and was a huge liablity. The Utes decided to play a lot of zone coverage and the USC crossing routes ate them alive as Carter (and sometimes Chase Hansen) were way too slow to stop Juju Smith-Schuster in any way. For a team that does such a great job of making adjustments during the game on defense, they didn't budge with the zone coverage and Kessler picked it apart. Poor coaching. Poor game plan. Poor adjustments.
Despite the massacre in the Coliseum, Utah still stands atop the Pac 12 South, a top 15 team, and controls their destiny in the conference. Win out, and at worst, you're to the Pac 12 title game. Win that, and you can still sneak into the playoff. At worse, you're headed to the Rose Bowl. Get up off the ground, have a good week of practice, take your frustrations out on Oregon State, and then get ready for one the biggest November in program history.