UTAH UTES

Utah, USC Have A Lot To Gain, Lose In Pac-12 Rematch

Dec 2, 2022, 11:17 AM
Utah Utes vs. Oregon Ducks - 2021 Pac-12 Championship...
The Utah Utes take the field for the Pac-12 Conference championship game against the Oregon Ducks at Allegiant Stadium on December 3, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Utes defeated the Ducks 38-10. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

LAS VEGAS- No. 11 Utah and No. 4 USC have a lot to gain and a lot to lose tonight in their Pac-12 Championship rematch.

For the Utes, they have a chance to repeat as Pac-12 Champions and go to the Rose Bowl after perhaps not being as dominating as they were projected to be before the season kicked off.

 

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For USC, the College Football Playoff is on the line and a bit of a chance at redemption since Utah is the only loss on their nearly flawless season.

This game should be hard-hitting, filled with passion and come down to who wants it more? Will the plucky, tough Utes find a way to walk away with the upset, or will the svelte, revamped Trojans take the title?

Utah’s Defense Vs. Caleb Williams

In the last matchup, Utah’s defense got the best of USC quarterback Caleb Williams- barely. 

Since that first meeting the Utes have drastically improved on defense and it will get put to the test Friday at 6 pm MT/ 5 pm PT. Utah ranks first in the Pac-12 in first down, third down, and fourth down defense. The Utes are also top dogs in passing and rushing defense, scoring defense, and total defense.

Williams hasn’t stayed stagnate since battling with Utah in Salt Lake either. USC hasn’t lost a game since October 15, largely due to Williams and it’s earning him Heisman hype. Largely because of Williams’ ability, USC leads the Pac-12 passing efficiency and scoring offense, while coming in second in third and fourth down conversions and passing offense.

The Pac-12 Championship will most likely come down to who in this battle does a better job of controlling the game- Utah’s defense or Williams?

Keeping Cam Rising And The Ball Safe

USC isn’t necessarily the best defensive team, but they are incredibly good at taking the ball away and getting pressure on the quarterback. In the last meetup, the Utes did a good job of eliminating the Trojans’ strengths on defense by keeping Cam Rising upright all night and making good decisions with the ball.

Recently against Oregon, the Utes had a bit of a meltdown in those areas. Rising uncharacteristically threw three interceptions that ultimately sealed the loss for Utah in Eugene.

There has been some speculation that Rising was not right in that game (he has been banged up since the last meeting with USC), but he did turn it around against Colorado last week looking more like himself.

 

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Needless to say, Utah will need Rising and their offensive line to be at their best as they go against the number one team in sacks, turnovers gained, and turnover margin while coming in second in tackles-for-loss.

Keeping Rising and the ball safe to allow the number one team in time of possession to keep Williams and the USC offense off the field will be critical in round number two.

 

Michelle Bodkin is the Utah Utes Insider for KSLsports.com and host of both the Crimson Corner Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and The Saturday Show (Saturday from 10 a.m.–12 p.m.) on The KSL Sports Zone. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram: @BodkinKSLsports

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Utah, USC Have A Lot To Gain, Lose In Pac-12 Rematch