While it is easy to get caught up in the endless stream of injuries among the Trojan ranks, USC does have a game to play on Saturday against the Utah Utes. Utah doesn’t have a great resume on paper, but they have proven to be more than a handful for some of the top teams in the conference including UCLA, who narrowly beat them, and Stanford, who they toppled two weeks ago. Offensively, Utah ranks middle of the road almost across the board. Sitting in the 40s nationally in total offense, rushing offense and passing offense, they have shown an ability to put points on the board by averaging 35 a game, which sets them 36th nationally and fifth in the conference.
The Utes enter Saturday with their own injury concerns at quarterback. Sophomore Travis Wilson, who leads the Utah offense with his arm as well as his legs, jammed a finger against Arizona and had to be taken out of the game after throwing two interceptions. Wilson, a 6-6 dual-threat QB out of San Clemente, has thrown for 1655 yards and 14 touchdowns, good enough to be tied for fifth in the Pac-12 in passing scores. He also ranks third nationally in pass plays of 50 yards or longer, which should be a great concern to the USC secondary. Always a threat to take off and run, Wilson has racked up 300 yards on the ground with five touchdowns, which places him behind Marcus Mariota and B.J. Denker in terms of rushing touchdowns by Pac-12 quarterbacks.
If Wilson can’t go, his back up Adam Schulz will tap in. He doesn’t have the athleticism of Wilson but he has a strong arm and is known for his accuracy. Shulz, a former walk-on, came into the Arizona game in relief of Wilson just before the first half ended. He went six for six in the two minute drill, finishing the game 12 for 23 with 142 yards and a touchdown. He lead three scoring drives in the losing effort.
Continuing the sophomore theme, running back James “Bubba” Poole has emerged as the main man in the Ute rushing attack. With 476 yards on 97 carries, he averages 4.91 yards but has only punched it into the endzone once this season. As a receiving threat as well, Poole has caught 26 passes for 223 yards. Supplementing the running game are junior Lucky Radley and senior Kelvin York who each have two touchdowns to their name.
In the receiving corp, junior Dres Anderson and senior Sean Fitzgerald share most of the attention. Anderson leads the team in receptions with 31, yards with 621, and touchdowns with five. As a big play receiver, he also tops the Pac-12 in yards per reception at 20.03. Fitzgerald has reeled in 23 catches for 365 yards and four touchdowns. Interestingly enough given USC’s own lack of tight end numbers, Utah hasn’t started a TE since Jake Murphy went down with a season ending injury.
The Ute offensive line is as settled as USC’s receiving corp is unsettled. All five starters have played every single offensive snap of the last five games and only right tackle Siaosi Aiono has missed any time this season (one game against Weber State). The Utes have allowed 11 sacks this season.
Projected Starting Line Up:
LT #73 Jeremiah Poutasi
LG #76 Jeremiah Tofaeono
C #64 Vyncent Jones
RG #59 Junior Salt
RT #60 Siaosi Aiono
QB #7 Travis Wilson
RB #34 Bubba Poole
WR #6 Dres Anderson
WR #8 Anthony Denham
WR #83 Sean Fitzgerald
TE #85 Greg Reese
or #87 Siale Fakailoatonga
Check out the other side of the Utah match up: Previewing the Ute Defense