Utah beats USC if…
…the Trojans are unable to protect Matt Barkley in pass protection and by emphasizing the running game. USC has done a bit of musical linemen over the last few weeks – some of it due to injury and some of it due to ineffectiveness. It is still not known if starting center Khaled Holmes will be available for this game after re-aggravating his ankle injury against Cal.
If he is unable to go then Cyrus Hobbi, who started in Holmes’ place against Stanford, could get the nod. Hobbi was ineffective against the Cardinal and when Holmes went down against Cal, it was Abe Markowitz who replaced him.
It was also Markowitz who got the starting nod at left guard in the Cal game over Marcus Martin. So it is possible that if Holmes is unable to play, we could see Markowitz at center and Martin at left guard or Hobbi at center and Markowitz at left guard. If Holmes can go then it will be either be Martin or Markowitz at left guard.
This is a lot of uncertainty to have against the very stout defensive front that the Utes have. Ideally you want Holmes in the line-up in order to make the proper line calls and to match up against Utah’s stud defensive tackle Star Lotulelei.
In either case if the Trojans aren’t able to run the ball with sustained effectiveness it will be a very long night for Barkley as he tries to stay upright. The Utes want to be able to stop the run with their front four and avoid committing extra defenders to stop it.
They also want to create pressure with their front four, disrupting Barkley’s timing and his downfield vision. If Barkley is unsettled in the pocket and unable to see his downfield receivers, this will reduce the effectiveness of the passing game and prevent Barkley from attacking different parts of the field with his various weapons. Being able to drop 7 defenders into coverage while pressuring Barkley will pay huge dividends for Utah.