Utah football: Utes ignore USC's turmoil, struggles
USC still is fighting the effects of lost scholarships due to NCAA sanctions, and winning the Pac-12 at this point is nothing but a dream.
Athletics director Pat Haden fired Lane Kiffin in unceremonious fashion three weeks ago.
And the Trojans slipped to 4-3 after last Saturday's loss to Notre Dame.
None of that matters to Utah. The Utes know they will face a team that's still bursting at the seams with NFL-caliber athletes when they travel to Los Angeles to take on the Trojans on Saturday.
"Talent-wise, it's still one of the best teams in our conference," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. "So we're going to have a big challenge ahead of us. It's still a name that carries a lot of weight around college football. We know what they are capable of, and they're playing much better. Watching them, there's not that much change. It's still a very good football program."
If Silas Redd gets comfortable, the Utes know he's sill one of the best running backs in the Pac-12. If they don't account for Morgan Breslin, he'll be the most disruptive linebacker Utah's faced since UCLA's Anthony Barr. If Travis Wilson starts and is not careful, the Trojans have an athletic secondary capable of forcing turnovers. And if Utah isn't prepared, USC quarterback Cody Kessler will pick it apart. He threw for almost 300 yards and two touchdowns in a win over Arizona.
"When you watch the film, you know that it's a very good football team," Utah senior Trevor Reilly said. "They do a lot of things that can hurt you, and it's a challenge to go on the road and play against a team like that."
The Trojans haven't changed much since Ed Orgeron became the interim head coach. Haden is expected to conduct a nationwide search after the season, but Orgeron has performed well in the short term. He's opened the lines of communication between the players and coaching staff. He's made it a point to treat his players like adults, and he's worked to make the program a more relaxed atmosphere.
"The offense and the defense have stayed the same," Orgeron said. "I've changed a couple of things here and there, but nothing major. The guys have been through a lot, so the first thing I want is to let them know how much we care about them as human beings first. The guys are in a good mindset. It's a team that wants to be good and wants to play football."
The matchup is important to both teams, given the fact that each has won just once in the league. The Trojans recently have had very good success against the Utes, beating them the last two years. So the Trojans' struggles mean little to Utah.
The Utes know they will be facing a team still capable of producing substance.
USC this season
• Is 4-3 after Saturday's loss to Notre Dame
• Fired Lane Kiffin after a road loss to Arizona State
• Named Ed Orgeron as its interim head coach
• Is expected to conduct a nationwide coaching search following the season
Utah at USC
O Saturday, 2 p.m.
TV • Pac-12 Network