When the season began, I thought Thursday night’s USC-Utah game was going to be a titanic, believing that Utah was a worthy interloper to the Trojans’ anticipated plans to win the Pac-12 South and beyond.
Then USC got ambushed at Stanford, while Utah was losing at Utah State in overtime and getting thrashed by Arizona State. So much for the buzz around this game, except in the state of Utah.
No doubt it’s considerable there. USC hasn’t visited Utah since 1917 when it won 51-0 (and I hear Utah has been seething with revenge on its mind ever since).
Given Utah’s 37-7 meltdown at ASU, there’s the possibility this simply isn’t a very good Utes team, especially now that Jordan Wynn is out at quarterback and Jon Hays is backing him up. There’s also the factor that Utah’s pass defense is not playing at the level it did a year ago, though coach Kyle Whittingham says that has more to do with a bad half at ASU than a consistent theme (still, Utah has two pass interceptions, compared to a league-leading 19 a year ago).
A big imponderable is whether Khaled Holmes is able to play, and play effectively at center for USC after spraining his ankle. If not, Star Lotulelei, the Utah nose guard, will be licking his chops. Also, Utah running back John White, who hasn’t been healthy much of the year, seems to stand a better chance of coming back near full strength after his own ankle issue.
I think the Utes, 14-point underdogs, find a way to keep it close, and if they get a boffo performance out of Hays, maybe even pull the upset. USC 30, Utah 23.
Last week — 3-2 (4-1 versus the spread). Season — 30-13 (18-17 versus the spread).