USC vs. Utah: Prediction and preview
USC vs. Utah is our Pac-12 Championship Game matchup this year. The Trojans’ only loss this season so far came to the Utes in Salt Lake City on Oct. 15 by a final score of 43-42.
If Lincoln Riley, Caleb Williams and company are able to avenge that loss, the College Football Playoff awaits. But the Utes will be eager to play spoiler on Friday night in Las Vegas. The game kicks off at 8 p.m. Eastern time on Friday and can be seen on FOX.
USC vs. Utah preview
Let’s revisit that Oct. 15 matchup in Salt Lake City, shall we? Caleb Williams was spectacular in the game, throwing for 381 yards, 5 touchdowns and 0 interceptions.
But, as good as Williams was, Utah QB Cam Rising rose (sorry) to the occasion, matching Williams step for step. Rising finished that Utah victory with 415 passing yards, 2 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. He also ran for 60 yards and 3 scores, matching Williams with 5 total touchdowns.
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USC’s leading rusher from that game, RB Travis Dye, is unfortunately out for the year with a leg injury. Austin Jones stepped up in a huge way against Notre Dame last weekend, though, running 25 times for 154 yards.
Williams completed passes to 9 different receivers last week, too, so the USC receiving corps has plenty of weapons. Last year’s Biletnikoff Award winner, Jordan Addison, is also back after suffering an injury earlier this season.
We’ve given a lot of love to USC’s offense, but the defense deserves some credit, too. Rising has thrown only 7 interceptions this year (compared to 22 touchdowns), but he’ll have to be careful against the Trojans’ opportunistic secondary.
USC leads the Pac-12 with 19 interceptions in 2022. In fact, that mark is good for second in the entire country, behind only Illinois. The Illini have 22 picks this year. The Trojans have returned 3 of their interceptions for touchdowns.
Now for the Utes’ stout defense. Utah only allows 317.5 yards per game, by far the best mark in the Pac-12. The Utes also lead the league by allowing only 20.1 points per game.
If you’re thinking that the 43-42 shootout looks like a fluke, you might be right. That game could have had even more points, though, if coach Kyle Whittingham hadn’t been bold. The Utes scored a touchdown on a Cam Rising run late in the fourth quarter. They then went for 2 and converted (on another Rising run, no less).
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The Utes are playing with nothing to lose in this contest. That’s a dangerous thing for Lincoln Riley and the Trojans, who have everything to lose.
USC vs. Utah prediction
The Trojans have so much on the line in this game. Riley is used to this sort of pressure, but the players aren’t. Expect them to start slow, making some uncharacteristic mistakes. But after halftime, Williams and company will settle down and play like the Trojans we’ve seen the past few weeks. With a CFP berth on the line, they do just enough to win by 1 point, successfully avenging their 1-point loss in October.
Prediction: USC 31, Utah 30