Thursday Night Football Preview: USC-Utah
Another good game on Thursday night? My God. At times over the last few seasons we couldn’t get basically anything besides a snoozefest between the Pittsburgh Panthers and Syracuse Orange. Those days are over. Tonight’s battle between the USC Trojans and Utah Utes is must see TV.
Both teams come into this one at a crossroads. USC suffered a huge defeat September 15th to the Stanford Cardinal and was all but pronounced dead in the national title fight by the national media. I’m not so sure about that. Utah was absolutely obliterated on the road by a very average Arizona State Sun Devils team. The Utes big name defense let the Sun Devils run all over them in the 1st quarter and that was about all she wrote in that one
“The 3 Biggies”
USC must start fast early…. Utah’s defense had been ranked in the top 20 but came out flat against Arizona State. I’d get the ball on the outside right away. Go after Utah free safety Eric Rowe who’s returning to the lineup after missing two games with a hamstring injury. See if he can chase and tackle both star receivers Marqise Lee and Robert Woods across the middle on quick slants and drag routes. One of the starting Utah corners, Moe Lee, has been replaced by nickel guy Reggie Topps. See right away how he can cover against the boundary.
USC has to exploit their matchups in the box…. I’m assuming Utah coach Kyle Whittingham will decide to play a lot of “cover 2 and cover 4″ to protect against the deep threats both Lee and Woods pose on paper. While we haven’t seen a ton of that so far this season they have shown the ability in the past to do that. Don’t let this year’s tape fool you. Saying that, USC should be able to run the ball effectively and, in turn, slow down the effective Utes pass rush led by stud defensive tackle Star Lotulelei. He is a mammoth who will be a top 10 pick in next year’s NFL draft. If defensive end/linebacker Joe Kruger plays (rumors are he won’t) they’ve got two legit studs the Trojans questionable line will have to deal with. USC’s starting center Khaled Holmes is expected to be back after suffering yet another injury, this time against Cal in Week 4. His absence against Stanford is the key reason the Trojans fell. The rest of the line was confused about protection schemes and his replacement couldn’t even snap the ball correctly. Make everyone’s job “easier” upfront, run with the two headed monster of Penn State Nittany Lions transfer Silas Redd and Curtis McNeal. Eternal fatty Marc Tyler cut them up last season.
Utah has got to slow the game down…. The Utes really don’t have any one stepping up on offense. Senior quarterback Jordan Wynn‘s career is over with another shoulder injury and stud running back John White IV hasn’t lived up his preseason billing. I still don’t trust USC’s defense though. They are limited depth wise so I’d try to force them to play 8-9 defensive lineman on the road, in altitude. Current quarterback Jon Hays really has little chance to throw with the Utes patchwork offensive line. I’d hope that White IV can recapture some of the magic that had the nation talking about him last season, as one of the best running backs “the casual fan doesn’t know.”
PREDICTION: USC 30 – Utah 14. The Trojans take a quick lead and the Utes show some pride in front of the home crowd but it isn’t enough and USC stays in the national title hunt hoping for a slip up from one of the SEC’s and/or Big 12‘s finest.
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