Utah Quarterbacks and Wide Receivers vs USC Secondary
Troy Williams has been a very good quarterback for the Utes through three games, but unfortunately the interceptions have overshadowed his otherwise stellar performance. It isn't a formidable pass rush from USC, so he should have time, but decision making will be the key for the junior. On the season, Williams has 4 touchdowns to match his 4 interceptions and is throwing for 241 yards per game at a 62% clip. Tim Patrick has developed into an elite Pac 12 receiver with 14 grabs, 285 yards and 4 touchdowns so far this year. By comparison, JuJu Smith-Schuster of USC has only 11 catches. Cory Butler-Byrd's return to the lineup was well received against San Jose State as he hauled in 5 balls and will be a deep threat and playmaker for the Utes. Raelon Singleton likely gets the nod in place of an injured Tyrone Smith this week. Singleton has 5 catches for 98 yards on the season.
The strength of USC's defense lays in their secondary, and it's led by all american candidate Adoree Jackson. He has decent size at 5-11, 185 pounds, but his athleticism might be the best in the entire country. Not someone who picks off a lot of passes with only 2 on his resume through two seasons, but teams just don't throw his way. Across from him is Iman 'Biggie' Marshall, who lives up to his nickname with a 6-1, 205 pound frame. Marshall had 67 tackles, 9 passes defended, and 3 picks last season and is off to a solid start this year with another interception along with 2 tackles for loss. Junior Chris Hawkins is a former cornerback who started all 14 games last season at free safety for the Trojans. He had 70 tackles and 2 interceptions in 2015, while notching another pick along with 16 tackles so far this season. Sophomore Marvell Tell is in his first season as a starter and has great size at 6-3, 190 pounds to go along with elite athleticism. This group is giving up only 176 yards per game through the air.
Utah Running Backs and Tight Ends vs USC Linebackers
The departure of Joe Williams wasn't an issue in their first week without him as Shyne, Moss, McCormick, and company went for over 200 yards on the ground. McCormick will need to be efficient out of the backfield catching the ball and has been so early this year. As long as this group is efficient, picking up more than 4 yards per carry, and the Ute staff will take it. The tight ends continue to be a missing part of the Utah offense, generating only 9 catches so far. Maybe this isn't the week to throw to the tight ends much with Cameron Smith on the other side of the ball.
We all know who Cameron Smith is after the 3 interception game last season against the Utes and he comes into this contest as arguably their most consistent performer. Smith leads the team with 29 tackles, 1 for loss, but is yet to pick off a pass. Michael Hutchings is USC's other middle linebacker, and he's registered 17 tackles, 2.5 for loss, and 1.5 sacks. He's a first year starter as a senior, but is a bit undersized at 6-1, 215 pounds. The outside backers are Uchenna Nwosu and Utah's own Porter Gustin. Gustin has 3.5 tackles for loss and 2.0 sacks, playing mostly a rush end role. They've struggled a bit to slow the run game, giving up 197 yards per contest and 5 yards per carry, although two of those opponents were elite running teams in Alabama and Stanford.
Utah Offensive Line vs USC Defensive Line
The Utah offensive line found their groove against SJSU over the last 2 and a half quarters against SJSU and will look to continue that against a porous Trojans three man defensive front. JJ Dielman is looking more and more comfortable at the center spot and the tackles have been dominant in the run game, especially with Jackson Barton on the field.
The USC defensive front hasn't lived up to their traditional billing with former Ute Stevie Tu'ikolovatu as their best player after transferring over this summer. Stevie T has 9 tackles on the season, but his job is taking up space and eating up blockers. Defensive end Noah Jefferson will miss the game on Friday night, and Malik Dorton is a game time decision. Expect to see the uber-athletic Rasheem Green out there a lot as a disruptive force. As a group, these guys only have 5 sacks this season.