The two teams expected to compete for the Pac-12 South title meet Saturday night when the No. 20 USC Trojans visit the Utah Utes. The current odds list USC as three-point favorites on the road, with the over/under set at 58 points.
Thanks to two games that were canceled due to COVID-19 concerns, this will be Utah’s first contest of the 2020 season. Utah was painfully close to reaching the College Football Playoff a year ago, only to suffer a loss in the Pac-12 title game to spoil its chances.
However, the Utes have lost several key players on both sides of the ball, which is why there is some uncertainty surrounding Kyle Whittingham’s team ahead of the season.
As for the Trojans, they have won their first two games of 2020 in dramatic fashion. USC looked dead in the water two weeks ago against Arizona State but managed to erase a 13-point deficit in less than three minutes.
It was a similar story last week against Arizona when the Trojans scored with 25 seconds left to secure a 34-30 win.
The Trojans owe their two wins to the play of quarterback Kedon Slovis. Despite a hiccup or two along the way, Slovis has made some incredible throws late in games that have allowed USC to survive its first two games.
After two games, Slovis has 706 passing yards while also completing over 71% of his passes. While the USC rushing attack has been productive with three viable backs, it hasn’t been good enough to build comfortable leads, as the Trojans have put the game in Slovis’ hands in the last two weeks.
Of course, it’s anyone’s guess how the Trojans will fare against Utah’s defense. The Utes were one of the best defensive teams in the country a year ago.
But they’ve suffered heavy losses on that side of the ball. There are 10 true freshmen on the two-deep, including two starters in the Utah secondary. While those players all have talent and potential, that inexperience could be an issue against Slovis and the USC passing attack.
The Utah offense is even more of a mystery than the defense. The Utes had a three-man race for the starting quarterback job during preseason camp. To this point, Whittingham has declined to name his starter.
Aside from that, the Utes also have to replace star running back Zack Moss, creating uncertainty at their two most important offensive positions.
The silver lining is that USC’s defense has been far from impressive early in the season. In fairness, the Trojans have forced four turnovers in their first two games, which has given their defense a nice lift.
But they were shredded by a mobile quarterback against Arizona State and picked apart by a strong passing quarterback against Arizona. Despite the talent on that unit, there are plenty of holes that Utah could exploit.
A Wild Guess
With this being Utah’s season opener, it’s anybody’s guess how the Utes play after so much roster turnovers. The only sure thing in this game is that USC is likely to have the better quarterback.
Plus, the Trojans gave the Utes their only regular-season loss, which bodes well for them. Despite losing three straight trips to Salt Lake City, bet on USC to win and cover on Saturday night.