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USC Head Coach Says Utah Game Has Become A Rivalry

Head coach Clay Helton of the USC Trojans watches practice in the rain prior to their game against the Utah Utes at Rice-Eccles Stadium on September 23, 2016 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – USC head coach Clay Helton spoke with KSL’s UnRivaled during Pac-12 media days to discuss how the USC head coaching job is different from others, and his thoughts about the Utes and Trojans being conference rivals.

Utah faces their biggest test of the year on Friday night at the LA Coliseum. Since the Utes joined the Pac-12 they are 3-2 against USC.

All of the victories for the Utes have come at Rice-Eccles Stadium, so if this is the year that Utah is going to be a top-10 team and potential College Football Playoff contender, that losing streak at the Coliseum must come to an end.

In short, this game is a must-win for the Utes.

There is a lot of scrutiny on USC right now, and most of that is due to the history and success of the program – a blessing and a curse. Trojans head coach Clay Helton is fully aware of what the expectations are and, despite having a Rose Bowl victory under his belt, there are still not-so soft whispers that he is on the hot seat.

USC Is A Pressure Cooker

One thing is crystal clear for those who decide to don the cardinal and gold – they are well aware of what comes with that responsibility. Helton knew what he was getting into when he took the job and welcomes this challenge.

“The greatest thing about USC is the expectations that come with it and it is one of the reasons why I came. Every coach wants to coach at the top of his field and to be at a place like USC and to know there is a standard of excellence that you have to uphold,” Helton said during Pac-12 media days. “It is a special thing and I welcome it, and if you don’t like it don’t take the job.”

This year, the Utes were the preseason favorite in the Pac-12 Media Days media polls.

“The expectation is that we’re going to win the Pac-12 championship,” former USC athletic director Lynn Swann said prior to resigning. “We want to be in the picture and the conversation about the national championship, on the national scene. That’s where it starts.”

That is why Helton coming off of a 5-7 year means his coaching seat is in flames if this team doesn’t win at least 10 games. The BYU loss did not help the narrative surrounding Helton’s job.

All of that can change if he runs through the Pac-12. It starts against the Utes at home on Friday night.

Is Utah USC’s Rival?

Clayton mentioned that in the South, the division runs through Utah or USC, but that is not exactly accurate. The schools have combined for three division titles in eight years.


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During the interview, KSL Sports Scott Mitchell brought up the point that the division title should go through USC every year and the idea of the USC/Utah rivalry.

“I have always cherished the game between us and Utah. It’s always been a great game,” Helton said on KSL’s UnRivaled. “I’ve said [this game has been a rivalry] in the past. When I look at it in my years here, the South has been won based on that game. So, it has been ultra important and it is an early game for us.”

“It is an important game for us in our season and it’s become a rivalry, our kids see it as that and they love the challenge of that.”

University of Utah athletic director Mark Harlan was on KSL Newsradio’s “Inside Sources” the day before the game. He mentioned the Utes were on their way to a “rivalry game.”

Saying this game is a rivalry up for debate but there is no denying this Friday night game is huge for both the Utes and Trojans.

USC is looking to improve to 2-0 in conference play and Utah has a chance to solidify its top 10 ranking while also getting its first-ever win at USC since joining the Pac-12.

Tune into KSL’s Unrivaled every Monday through Friday, 7-9 p.m., or download the KSL NewsRadio app to subscribe to the podcast. 

All of the information about how to watch, stream or listen to the game can be found here.