USC vs. Utah Gameday Guide 2017: Matchups, lineups, links, odds and more

SALT LAKE CITY, UT - SEPTEMBER 23: Quarterback Sam Darnold
SALT LAKE CITY, UT - SEPTEMBER 23: Quarterback Sam Darnold /

USC vs. Utah

LA Colisem | Los Angeles, CA5:00 p.m. Pacific | ABCAll-time Series: 10-5Last meeting: Utah 31, USC 27 in 2016

It’s only October, but the Pac-12 South could be on the line when USC vs. Utah kicks off on Saturday night.

“You’ve got two teams that are sitting at the top of the Pac-12 South, going to be a heck of aballgame,” USC head coach Clay Helton said of the matchup. “I’m looking forward to it.”

Since USC and Utah each have one loss in conference, both to teams in the North, the winner of the game at the Coliseum will gain an invaluable tie breaker in the South.

Utah’s first addition to the L column came last week to the Cardinal, falling 20-23 in a rare loss at Rice-Eccles Stadium. The Utes had opened the season 4-0, besting North Dakota, BYU, San Jose State and Arizona in turn.

USC’s road has followed similar turns, starting 4-0 before losing in Week 5 to a ranked squad. The big difference was level of difficulty, with the Trojans facing tight contests against Western Michigan, Stanford, Texas and Cal before dropping a close one at Washington State.

For four years running, the home team has prevailed in the USC vs. Utah game. Will the trend continue?

Gameday Links:

Preview Podcast:

Reign of Troy Radio this week features a combo-platter of an episode, with co-hosts Michael Castillo and Alicia de Artola reviewing the fallout from USC’s win over Oregon State and previewing the matchup with Utah.

LISTEN: USC vs Utah Preview

Having trouble? Listen on BlogTalkRadio, iTunesGoogle Play or Stitcher.

USC Injury Report:

  • Out for season: K Michael Brown (knee), CB Greg Johnson (shoulder), LB Tayler Katoa (knee), CB Jonathan Lockett (hip), S Isaiah Pola-Mao (shoulder), OL Viane Talamaivao (pectoral), DL Marlon Tuipulotu (back), WR Keyshawn “Pie” Young (hamstring/redshirt)
  • Out: RB Stephen Carr (foot), OLB Hunter Echols (hip), OLB Porter Gustin (toe/bicep), OT Nathan Smith (knee)
  • Questionable:  Damon Johnson (back/concussion)
  • Probable: WR Deontay Burnett (toe), DL Malik Dorton (knee), OL Chuma Edoga (ankle), DL Josh Fatu (knee), DL Rasheem Green (ankle), WR Jalen Greene (concussion), TE Daniel Imatorbhebhe (hip), LB Jordan Iosefa (concussion)

Utah Injury Report:

  • Out for season: N/A
  • Out: RB Armand Shyne (arm/redshirt)
  • Questionable: DL Kylie Fitts (leg), QB Tyler Huntley (shoulder)
  • Probable: DL Bradlee Anae (undisclosed)

Click here for more details from the USC and Utah injury reports.

When USC has the ball…

The Trojan offense still hasn’t quite hit their stride in 2017 and Utah won’t make it easy for them to find that elusive rhythm this week.

The Utes boast “by far the largest front that [USC] will face,” per Helton.

With ends Kylie Fitts and Bradlee Anae facing injuries of some variety, Utah started four defensive tackles across their line last week against Stanford. USC could see the same massive front on Saturday, putting a great deal of pressure on the Trojan front line to create running lanes for Ronald Jones II and the rushing attack.

Utah has allowed an average of 108.8 rushing yards per game this year, limiting opponents to 3.36 yards per carry. However, Arizona and Stanford found much more success on the ground than the Utes first three opponents. The Wildcats and Cardinal averaged 4.76 and 6.32 yards per rush.

The Trojans can expect Utah to load the box to stop the run, leaning on linebackers Sunia Tauteoli and Kavika Luafatasaga, who Helton called the best tandem of linebackers USC has faced yet.

In the passing game, Sam Darnold and company will contend with Utah’s secondary, including veteran safety Chase Hansen and two cornerbacks who have proven adept at forcing turnovers, with Casey Hughes forcing two fumbles and Julian Blackmon leading the team with two interceptions.

As adept at stopping the run as the Utes have proven this season, they have been equally proficient at limiting the pass. They rank 19th in passing success rate this season.

Projected Utah Defense

LE Kylie Fitts #11

LT Filipo Mokofisi #45

RT Lowell Lotulelei #93

RE Bradlee Anae #6

MAC Sunia Tauteoli #10

ROVER Kavika Luafatasaga #5

FS Marqise Blair #13

SS Chase Hansen #22

LC Case Hughes #25

RC Julian Blackmon #23

NB Javelin Guidry #28

When Utah has the ball…

Utah’s offense has traditionally relied on the ground attack, but the introduction of offensive coordinator Troy Taylor, a coach with roots in the air raid, has balanced the Utes out this year.

Taylor’s offense still averages 4.14 yards per carry and 160 yards per game, with running back Zach Moss leading the way.

However, the Utes have also opened up their passing attack, leaning on quarterback Tyler Huntley in the early part of the season.

“I thought Huntley did an unbelievable job in the first four games,” Helton said. “Really a dual threat athlete that can spin it and really dangerous with his feet.”

USC defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast described Huntley as a run-first dual-threat and that bears out in his stats. He’s run the ball 56 times this season for 208 yards and three touchdowns. Paired with 241 yards passing per game, a 73.3 percent completion rating and a passer rating of 154.12, Huntley went 4-0 in his four starts.

However, the quarterback was injured against Arizona and replaced by Troy Williams, a familiar face for USC.

“We know Troy very well,” Helton said. “[We] know what he can do. A very dangerous person with that arm and legs.”

Williams threw two interceptions in his one start against Stanford, but was formidable in USC’s loss to Utah last season, with 270 yards and two touchdowns.

Whichever quarterback plays, he’ll have “maybe the best one wide out [USC’s] faced all season” at his disposal, according to Helton.

Former Oregon receiver Darren Carrington joined the Utes this offseason and now leads them with 582 yards and five touchdowns.

Projected Utah Offense

LT Jackson Barton #70

LG Salesi Uhatafe #74

C Lo Falemaka #69

RG Jordan Agasiva #79

RT Darrin Paulo #77

QB Tyler Huntley #1

RB Zach Moss #2

WR Darren Carrington #9

WR Samson Nacua #45

WR Raelon Singleton #11

WR Siaosi Wilson #80

Odds (USC -13):

USC opened as a 13-point favorite over Utah on Sunday, per Sports Book Review. Despite a slight dip down to 11 points, the Trojans remain a near-two touchdown favorite over the Utes as gametime approaches.

Utah has done well against the spread this year, but mostly as a favorite. They were undefeated, in result or against the spread, in their first four games with spreads ranging from 4.5 points to 27 points in their favor. Their first taste of being the underdog was a three-point spread to Stanford which they tied.

The Trojans, on the other hand, have been poor when it comes to covering oddsmakers’ margins. USC is 5-1 on the season as a whole, but 1-5 on the year against the spread.