USC's offense isn't the smooth, powerful Jaguar of recent seasons, which is somewhat of a surprise considering the presence of record-setting senior quarterback Matt Barkley.
The No. 13-ranked Trojans couldn't get out of their own way in a loss to Stanford and were merely competent while beating below-average Cal.
Yet, it became apparent Thursday night as USC (4-1, 2-1 Pac-12) completed its workmanlike 38-28 victory against Utah at Rice-Eccles Stadium, the parts are there to build a high-class driving machine.
Mistakes and penalties 14 in all hindered other USC drives. Yet, Barkley was on target all night, completing 23 of 30 passes for 303 yards and three touchdowns.
"We're close," USC coach Lane Kiffin said. "We're not finishing things off.
"[Barkley] played really well. To go on the road against a defense that can cause problems. He was two [missed] catches away from a huge night."
Tailback Silas Redd and receiver Marqise Lee are marquee players. It was Lee and Barkley hooking up early in the fourth quarter on an 83-yard scoring play, a career-long for both, that put the game out of reach.
On Thursday, Barkley moved closer to resembling the passer who threw for 3,500 yards and a Pac-12-record 39 touchdowns in 2011 despite giving the Utes (2-3, 0-2) two gift touchdowns with a pair of early turnovers within the first three minutes of play.
USC began its first two possessions with botched center snap, including a worm-burner that skipped through Barkley's legs in shotgun formation. Ute defensive end Nate Fakahafua stripped Barkley and raced 8 yards for the first score. USC's third possession revealed glimpses of what could be as the Trojans rolled 75 yards in eight plays. Penn State transfer Redd scored USC's first touchdown from 3 yards out.
"We have spots [of frustration] here and there," Barkley said. "But we're moving the football down the field. We have to convert more in the red zone."