USC TROJANS (3-1)
at UTAH UTES (2-2)
Kickoff: Thursday, 9:00 p.m. EDT
Line: USC -13½, Total: 47½
No. 13 USC tries to climb back up the AP Poll with a nationally televised game at Utah on Thursday night.
Last September in Los Angeles, USC pulled off one of the greatest backdoor covers in college football history. Utah, an 8-point underdog, lined up for a game-tying FG, only to have it blocked and returned for a Trojans touchdown as time expired for a 23-14 final. Matt Barkley had 264 passing yards, 1 TD and 1 INT in that win, but he has thrown just 2 TD and 4 INT in his past two games. Utah was crushed 37-7 and outgained 512 to 209 in its last game at Arizona State two weeks ago.
Can USC leave Utah with a convincing win on Thursday? For the answer, connect to The Platinum Sheet for all the StatFox Experts picks for every key college football game throughout the 2012 season.
Barkley’s Trojans need to do a better job of protecting the football after committing three turnovers in each of the past two games. Despite the miscues, USC still piled up 488 yards in its 27-9 win over California last week. Marqise Lee had 11 catches and 2 TD against the Bears, giving him 40 receptions for 457 yards and 6 TD in his four games this season. Fellow teammate WR Robert Woods has been pretty quiet in the past two weeks, gaining just 68 yards, but he racked up 102 yards on eight catches against Utah last year. USC could not run the football in its loss at Stanford (26 yards on 28 carries), but ran for 296 against Cal with Silas Redd rumbling for 158 of those yards and a touchdown. The USC defense has forced 2+ turnovers in all four of its games, and held Cal to a mere 250 total yards in its last game.
The Utes are still trying to cope with losing starting QB Jordan Wynn for the season with a shoulder injury, but his replacement Jon Hays wasn’t too bad in the loss to Arizona State, completing 10-of-15 passes for 117 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT. The Utes’ biggest disappointment this year has been RB John White, who had 1,519 rushing yards and 15 TD, but has rushed for only 233 yards and one touchdown in 2012. White was held to 18 yards on 14 carries in the loss to the Sun Devils, and had just 56 yards on 20 carries in last year’s meeting with the Trojans. Utah’s defense has been solid (330 total YPG, 29th in nation), especially against the run (111 YPG, 27th in FBS). The Utes have tallied 11 sacks and six forced turnovers in their four games in 2012.