Trojans look to put an end to skid against No. 3 Utah

first_imgBall control · Freshman running back Ronald Jones II leads all USC tailbacks with 380 total yards on the season. His three rushing touchdowns are second to the four redshirt senior Tre Madden has racked up on the ground. – Brian Ji | Daily TrojanAfter a 41-31 loss to Notre Dame in South Bend, the 3-3 Trojans will return to the Coliseum to host the No. 3-ranked Utah Utes. A loss to Utah this week would effectively knock the Trojans out of the Pac-12 South race.Utah, on the other hand, is a perfect 6-0 heading into Saturday’s matchup. They lead the Pac-12 South while the Trojans are in fifth place, ahead of only Colorado. The undefeated Utes beat Michigan in Week 1 and have gone on to beat Oregon, Cal and Arizona State.At the start of the season, USC was a favorite to win the Pac-12 and even compete for a national championship.After a loss to Washington and the midseason firing of former head coach Steve Sarkisian, the Trojans are now in danger of falling below .500 and losing any chance for postseason play. A win over the highest ranked team in the Pac-12, and third highest in the nation, however, would keep the Trojans in the hunt for a Pac-12 title.Utah is a fundamentally sound team that doesn’t commit a lot of errors. The Utes lead the Pac-12 in turnover margin, run defense and sacks allowed. They are a sound team that executes well. They have not allowed a team to score more than 24 points all season.The Trojans, on the other hand, are a team loaded with talent and potential that can’t get their turnovers and penalties under control.Utah senior quarterback Travis Wilson has completed nearly 70 percent of his passes this season and has thrown 980 yards and seven touchdowns. He also has 203 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns. His consistency in the air is accompanied by a stout run game. Running back Devontae Booker is 12th in the nation with 783 rushing yards and eight rushing touchdowns.“He’s just an unbelievably physical runner,” interim head coach Clay Helton said of Booker. “He’s a guy that reminds you of the old Roger Craig days, to be honest with you. His legs explode on contact.”USC’s defense struggles against mobile quarterbacks like Wilson. Last week, the Trojans exposed their weakness in the trenches, as Notre Dame running back C.J. Prosise proved to be unstoppable against the Trojan defense.On offense, redshirt senior quarterback Cody Kessler will need to get back to the consistency he displayed last season. Kessler has already thrown five interceptions this season, the total number he threw all of last year. Heading into the fourth quarter against Notre Dame, Kessler and the Trojans had a chance to win the game, but Kessler made some bad reads and threw two costly picks.“We’ve got to eliminate those things, especially me,” Kessler said. “We’ve got to finish games.”That’s not to say that Kessler isn’t capable of leading the offense to another 600 yard game. Utah is ranked 11th in the conference in pass defense, and Kessler is equipped with an explosive target in sophomore wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, who will get him even more yards after the catch.Smith-Schuster had six receptions for 139 yards and a touchdown against Notre Dame. Sophomore cornerback Adoree’ Jackson had an 83-yard touchdown against Notre Dame that helped the Trojans overcome a 14-point deficit in the first half.Jackson, who plays on both sides of the ball but is listed as a cornerback, practiced on offense for the first time this season, as the mounting injuries in the running back and receiver positions have required Jackson to play more offense than defense.“We’re dropping numbers pretty fast, so we’ve got to move guys around,” Kessler said. “But they’re doing a great job, and it’s my job to get them ready, get them prepared and be on the same page with them, because obviously in fall camp I didn’t work a whole lot with them.”The key for the Trojans to pull off an upset is to minimize the errors and for the team to play to its full potential. The Trojans are looking to avoid losing three consecutive games for the first time since 2012.“These kids want to go out and show the world how good they are, and we plan on doing that in these last six games,” Helton said.Last season, the Utes handed the Trojans a 24-21 loss in Salt Lake City.Kickoff is set for 4:30 p.m. in the Coliseum. It will air live on FOX.last_img

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