The Utes’ sky high Pac-12 aspirations were served a sobering dose of reality last week in a 35-24 loss to Arizona. Even after a huge upset of Stanford, Utah fans were reminded that the team hasn’t yet pieced together the consistency needed to win week in and week out in a tough conference. It doesn’t get any easier this week as the Utes must travel to take on USC. The Trojans are having one of the program’s worst seasons in recent memory with the Lane Kiffin fiasco and several high-profile injuries, but it’s never wise to count USC out. After beating Arizona two weeks ago 38-31, USC lost in a close one to an also down Notre Dame team 14-10, but it’s clear the team is playing with an edge and a "nothing to lose" attitude. Will the Utes be able to get back on track on the road? Or will USC hand Utah another tough conference loss? Here’s a position-by-position look at this week’s matchup and which team will have the edge heading into Saturday’s game:
Travis Wilson’s hand was clearly more injured last week than previously thought and severely hampered his throwing ability from the first snap. Wilson was limited to 3-of-9 completions, 15 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Sophomore Adam Schulz filled in admirably for Wilson with 142 yards passing and one touchdown on 12-of-23 attempts, but it’s clear the Utes need Wilson to compete through the rest of their schedule. Wilson said he’s "optimistic" that he’ll be able to play at USC, a good sign, but only if he’s healthy enough to grip and deliver the ball.
It seems that USC has been set at quarterback for the better part of the last decade, but the Trojans’ passing talent pool has been awfully shallow this season. Cody Kessler won the job from Max Wittek in the beginning of the season, but continues to struggle as one of the worst starters in the conference. Through seven games, Kessler has thrown for 1,330 yards, eight touchdowns and five interceptions. He has a 60 percent completion percentage, but looks far removed from the success USC had with Matt Leinart, Carson Palmer and Mark Sanchez.
Edge: Utah (If Wilson starts)
The runningback carousel continues to spin for the Utes. Bubba Poole was the presumed favorite to lead Utah in carries the rest of the season, but Lucky Radley made sure the coaching staff hadn’t forgotten about him with 56 yards on only five carries against Arizona. Kelvin York put together a solid effort as well, rushing 12 times for 47 yards and a touchdown. Poole still leads the group this season with 476 yards rushing and a touchdown, but don’t be surprised if the coaching staff continues to spread the carries around.
USC has its own committee of talented backs that have been producing for the Trojans. Sophomore Tre Madden looked like a revelation when the coaching staff switched him to the backfield from his original position as a linebacker. Madden rushed for 100 yards in four of the team’s first five games, but has since been limited by a hamstring injury, rushing for only 28 yards on five carries against Arizona and sitting out against Notre Dame. Silas Redd has picked up the baton for USC the last two games, rushing for 192 yards and a touchdown. Freshman Justin Davis and Sophomore Javorius Allen have had their chances as well, rushing for a combined 496 yards and eight touchdowns.
Utah’s receivers struggled against a tough Arizona secondary and were limited after Wilson went down with the hand injury. Sean Fitzgerald woke up from a slump and delivered one of his best performances of the season, catching three passes for 69 yards and a touchdown, his first effort over 60 yards since the Weber State game. Dres Anderson, who’s been dominant for Utah this season, was limited to only 29 yards on three receptions, his worst game since the season opener against Utah State. It’s clear that as Wilson goes, so does the receiving corps, another reason the Utes will need him to start this week.Next Page >
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