KSL UNRIVALED

Voice Of USC Football Says Utah Should Contend For National Title

Apr 14, 2022, 9:51 AM
Tavion Thomas - Utah Utes - Rose Bowl Game...
Tavion Thomas #9 of the Utah Utes celebrates after scoring a rushing touchdown against the Ohio State Buckeyes during the second quarter in the Rose Bowl Game at Rose Bowl Stadium on January 01, 2022 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
(Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY – USC football vastly underachieved last year by going 4-8, missing out on a bowl game, and firing Clay Helton. Things are looking on the up and up after the Trojans hired Lincoln Riley from Oklahoma in hopes of returning the program to the national stage.

At the moment, it’s too early to know what USC will look like in 2022. The Trojans land former Oklahoma quarterback Caleb Williams, who followed Riley from Norman to Los Angeles, as well as some other high-end talents via the transfer portal.

Voice of USC football Pete Arbogast joined UnRivaled and is not sure what to make of the Trojans during spring but said that there is optimism with a lot of new players.

“I actually had to take a roster sheet with me. That kind of explains everything from a play-by-play standpoint,” Arbogast said. “There are always guys that change numbers. That drives you crazy right there and then we have like 35 new guys that are either early high school guys or transfer portal guys.”

“I know some of the guys but I don’t know very many of them. From what coaches say, they’re probably going to be another shift of another 15 or so in and out when spring ball ends. So the roster is a thing in motion right now.”

Personnel-wise, the Trojans are all over the map and it will take time for the players to gel under a new coach and with new teammates.

With USC still in a transition phase from Helton to Riley, Utah has an opening to be the leader of the Pac-12 and make its fourth conference title game in five years. The Utes are good enough to compete for a conference title even if USC is back to its standards of going to a major bowl game.

Arbogast feels that way and thinks the Utes are a darkhorse team to win the national title in 2022.

“To me, [Utah is the] odds on favorite to win it again,” he said. “Virtually everybody’s back from that Rose Bowl team that should have won the game. They should be the Pac-12 Champions and they should be a national title contender or a playoff contender.”

That is high praise. Maybe 2022 is the year that the Utes breakthrough and get back the Pac-12 into the College Football Playoff for the first time since 2017 when the Washington Huskies were the No. 4 seed.

What will help Utah get there is to play and defeat a quality USC team. The Utes get the Trojans at home and that is almost always a good thing for crimson and white.

“Playing them at the Coliseum has been pretty good, but playing them in Salt Lake has historically not been great,” Arbogast said. “I’ll bet it’s a better game than people think it’s going to be. I think by then, USC will have gelled a little bit. That should be a whale of a game and could very well be a couple of undefeated teams playing each other that way.”

If both teams are undefeated entering that game then it could be one of the biggest matchups of the season and have a lot of national attention, which could have ESPN’s GameDay or FOX’s Big Noon Saturday crew on hand for the contest.

When Will USC Be Back To Being USC?

Before talking of an undefeated or nationally relevant USC team, the new coaching staff needs to get its talent on the same page. The Trojans have been more inconsistent than bad. They have missed a bowl game in two of the past three years but in the 2020 COVID-19 season they were 5-1. USC also went to back-to-back New Year’s Six games in 2016 and 2017.

That is still a far cry from what Pete Carroll accomplished during his time there but this USC team looks to just need a gut check. Now they have a coach who has had experience going to the College Football Playoff, coaching quarterbacks to Heisman trophy victories, and continually winning conference champions.

“They need to turn it around from an attitude sort of way and make people believe you are on the up, and they probably are going to be that with the new talent they brought in,” Arbogast added. “I would be surprised if they are any worse than 8-4 and probably 9-3 is really reasonable, and 10-2 would be really great.

“Then they would set the table for the following year from where they belong as the favorite for the conference championship, you’re in the real conversation for the playoff. 2023 or 2024 are those years where [U]SC football should be back at the top of the map.”

Sounds as if USC will be good but not great in 2022 and that is good news for the Utes if they want to stake the claim of being the best team in the Pac-12 South and in the conference overall.

Perhaps, the Utes and Trojans series will turn into a national affair with something big on the line year in and year out.

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