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August 30, 2012; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Utah Utes defensive tackle Star Lotulelei (92) tackles Northern Colorado Bears running back Robert Holland (36) during the first half at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-US PRESSWIRE

USC Game Preview: Utah Utes Defense

With the Utes sporting the worst offense in the Pac-12, their defense is clearly the strength of their team.  They are ranked 4th in the conference in overall defense giving up 329.5 yards per game – they are also 4th in run defense (111.2 ypg) and 3rd in pass defense (218.2 ypg).

The Utes are strongest upfront where they are led by Star Lotulelei.  Lotulelei is the reigning Morris Trophy (best defensive linemen in the conference) winner and a first team Pac-12 selection.  He will most likely be a top 10 draft pick next spring.

Lotulelei is joined upfront by Dave Kruger, Joe Kruger, and Nate Fakahafua.  Joe Kruger is questionable for this game due to a foot injury that forced him to miss the Arizona State game, but is expected to play.  If he is unable to go, expect to see strong side backer, Trevor Reilly, move into his position.

The Utes are big and physical up and will present a formidable challenge for the offensive line of the Trojans.

The linebacking corp will consist of freshman L.T. Filiaga in the middle and senior Reilly on the strong side.  If Reilly moves down to defensive end to replace the questionable Kruger, freshman Jason Whittingham will replace him here.

On the weakside, sophomore Jacoby Hale and junior Victor Spikes are listed as co-starters.  It is unknown who will actually get the start or how they will split their playing time, but Hale was the starter against the Sun Devils.

Back in the secondary, free safety Eric Rowe is returning after missing two games to a hamstring injury.  It would be smart to test him out early to see if he can cover ground.  The strong safety position will be manned by junior Brian Blechenn

Out on the corner, seniors Ryan Lacy and Reggie Topps will get the start.  Topps, the former nickel corner is replacing Moe Lee who has been demoted for this game.  Since Topps is more comfortable playing the slot receiver don’t be surprised to see him targeted early to see if he can hold up out there.

The Utes defense should present a good challenge on the road for the Trojans.  Lane Kiffin will need a great game plan to attack them and keep them off balance.  Tune into ESPN at 6pm PT to watch the Trojans take on the Utah Utes in Salt Lake City.

Projected Starters:
LE Nate Fakahafua #8
DT Dave Kruger #44
DT Star Lotulelei #92
RE Joe Kruger #99
OLB Jacoby Hale #40
MLB LT Filiaga #42
SLB Trevor Reilly #9
CB Reggie Topps #28
CB Ryan Lacy #26
FS Eric Rowe #18
SS Brian Blechen #4

Tags: Football Lane Kiffin USC Trojans Utah Utes

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