Opponent Preview: USC
The University of Utah football is coming off the most tumultuous and unfortunate bye week in program history with the loss of Aaron Lowe. Even with the blessing of his mother, Donna Lowe-Stern, to continue on this season in his honor, the team will need to lean on each other more than ever to grow and improve upon their 2-2 record. Focusing more on football, a Pac-12 title is still very possible with the win over Washington State despite some early season struggles for the Utes. USC (3-2 overall, 2-2 Pac-12) hosts Utah at 6 PM MST on Fox. Will the emotions fuel Utah to a win or will they have drained them too much? That’s the big question.
USC strength: Wide receiver Drake London
London fits the bill as the next great USC wide receiver. The 6-foot 5, 210 pound junior from USC’s backyard in Moorpark, CA has 48 receptions, 670 yards, and four touchdowns in the first 5 games of the season. He has eclipsed the 100-yard receiving mark four of five games this season and is averaging 14 yards per catch. Similar to other great wideouts, London demands a ton of attention, which opens up his teammates, yet he still is putting up monster numbers. Quarterback Kendon Slovis is not afraid to throw 50-50 balls, so it will be interesting to see how Utah schemes its defense to London’s talent.
USC question mark: Consistency
The Trojans racked up nine penalties for 111 yards against Stanford, 11 penalties for 98 yards versus Oregon State, and 12 penalties for 125 yards against Colorado. Yes, USC has the talent and skill to make up for their mistakes, but it is tough to win games by giving away free yards all the time. In addition to the penalties, USC has three blowout wins over San Jose State, Washington State, and Colorado, but big losses to Stanford and Oregon State, with both losses being home games. The pattern of swapping wins and losses every week bodes well for Utah, but the Utes have not won in Los Angeles for a very long time.
USC X-factor: Defensive playmakers
In the Colorado game, junior linebacker Drake Jackson tallied up four tackles, two sacks, two TFL, and a fumble recovery. Lineman Tuli Tuipulotu added a sack and forced fumble, and lineman Jacob Lichtenstein had two sacks himself, giving the Trojans five in the game. Up until the Colorado game, USC only had three sacks the entire season. Recent history says that USC has breakout games for various players against Utah (i.e.: Cameron Smith, Kendon Slovis), and with Utah’s offensive line issues this season, the USC defense may be set up to add to their momentum from last week.
Prediction: USC 30, Utah 23