No. 7 USC has yet to lose a game this season and will put its perfect record on the line Saturday when it faces No. 20 Utah in one of the biggest games of the day and on the 2022 Pac-12 conference schedule. Both teams entered the 2022 season as popular picks to win the conference, but only the Trojans have been able to make it to this highly-anticipated showdown without a loss in league play.
Utah fell at UCLA last week, dropping to 4-2 overall and 2-1 in Pac-12 play. The offense was slow to get going and by the time the Utes reached the end zone for the first time they did so chasing a double-digit deficit that would linger throughout the rest of the game in an eventual 42-32 defeat. USC, meanwhile, relied on its defense to shut out Washington State in the second half as Travis Dye led the Trojans to a 30-14 home win to improve to 6-0 overall and 4-0 in conference play. That brings these two teams into Saturday night's clash in extremely different places, with Utah hoping to blow the Pac-12 race wide open by handing the Trojans their first loss while USC can elevate itself itself from conference title contender to legitimate College Football Playoff contender with a win.
How to watch USC vs. Utah live
Date: Saturday, Oct. 15 | Time: 8 p.m. ET
Location: Rice-Eccles Stadium -- Salt Lake City
TV: Fox | Live stream: fuboTV (Try for free)
USC vs. Utah: Need to know
Caleb Williams looking for a bounce back: The full body of work for USC's star quarterback is strong. Williams' 14 touchdowns to one interception is the best ratio in the conference and he ranks in the top three in the Pac-12 in both yards per attempt and passer rating. But the six-game sample size for Williams as a Trojan includes a pair of outliers, as Williams threw for less than 200 yards and completed less than 52% of his passes in the 17-14 win at Oregon State and last week against Washington State. The emergence of Dorian Thompson-Robinson as competition for being the Pac-12's best quarterback provides a great foil as Williams takes on the same defense that UCLA just carved up one week ago. Williams has been near the top of the Heisman Trophy odds board for a few weeks, so expect the success (or lack thereof) of USC's offense to be a key data point in stacking these two star quarterbacks against each other for QB1 honors at a conference and national level.
A Pac-12 title race elimination game: Though the Pac-12 officially did away with division play this season, this head-to-head represented the top tier in the Pac-12 South over the last half decade. USC and Utah combined to win every Pac-12 South title since 2017, and with the new championship game format that takes the No. 1 and No. 2 teams from the overall 12-team standings it was even projected that these two teams could meet in the regular season and again in the Pac-12 title game. However, the early season surge from UCLA and Oregon's ability to bounce back from the season-opening loss to Georgia makes it less likely that this is just two-horse race at the top of the Pac-12. If the potential of USC and Utah rematching in the conference championship has indeed dropped, then Saturday is looking more like an elimination game in the Pac-12 title race.
Utah has an edge in Salt Lake City: The Trojans lead the all-time series 13-7, but since joining the Pac-12 it has been Utah that has the edge when these two teams play at Rice-Eccles Stadium. The Utes have won four of the seven meetings at home in this series, and though USC won the last time it made the trip to Salt Lake City that victory was the program's first at Utah since 2012. It's not unique to USC to struggle when playing at Utah, as the Utes are 109-36 in Rice-Eccles Stadium and 81-25 in the Kyle Whittingham era. You are not only playing at altitude but dealing with a home crowd and student section that regularly delivers an outstanding showing of intensity to pump up the home team. For Lincoln Riley, and the many transfers who arrived prior to this year, there will be an adjustment to dealing with all of the elements that are stacked against you in one of the trickiest road environments in the Pac-12.
USC vs. Utah prediction, picks
There should be some real concern with Utah's inability to get pressure on Dorian Thompson-Robinson in the loss to UCLA. There is going to be plenty for Lincoln Riley and his staff to work with in terms of looking to exploit Utah's defense in a similar manner, and the recent success of the Trojans' defense is a welcome sign when that side fo the ball was thought to be a weakness coming into the season. Utah will play better than it did against UCLA, but things aren't quite clicking at the championship level we expected coming into the season. I give USC a decent chance to win, so I think taking the points is the right play. Prediction: USC +3.5
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