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USC vs. Utah: How they match up

The Trojans are 6 1/2–point favorites over the Utes.

October 25, 2013|By Gary Klein
  • USC quarterback Cody Kessler has thrown for 1,330 yards and eight touchdowns with five interceptions this season for the Trojans.
USC quarterback Cody Kessler has thrown for 1,330 yards and eight touchdowns… (Jonathan Daniel / Getty…)

USC tries to bounce back from its loss at Notre Dame in a game that could determine the Trojans' bowl fate. Staff writer Gary Klein examines the story lines:

Spread the word

USC is a 6 1/2-point favorite, which is worth noting based on the last time the Trojans played Utah at the Coliseum.

The folks who run the Las Vegas sports books remember it well.

On Sept. 10, 2011, in the first Pac-12 Conference game in history, USC blocked a field-goal attempt in the final seconds, and cornerback Torin Harris picked up the ball and returned it 68 yards to the end zone.

One official threw a penalty flag as USC players left the bench and ran onto the field toward the end zone to greet Harris. Meantime, none of the officials appeared to clearly signal a touchdown. The referee announced an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty against USC, but he did not communicate over the public address system that the touchdown counted.

The game ended with USC apparently winning, 17-14, and failing to cover the 8 1/2 -point spread. Those who bet the Utes began cashing in.

But two hours after game's end, the Pac-12 determined that there had been a miscommunication between field officials and the official scorer in the press box and that USC should have been credited with a game-ending touchdown, making the score 23-14.

Banged up

USC quarterback Cody Kessler is completing 60% of his passes, eight for touchdowns, with five passes intercepted. The sophomore also sustained a gashed shin in the second half of last Saturday's loss at Notre Dame.

Trojans receivers Marqise Lee and Nelson Agholor are listed as questionable and possible, respectively, because of injuries. Freshman Darreus Rogers had six catches for 60 yards against Notre Dame despite a sore ankle.

Utah quarterback Travis Wilson, a 6-foot-7 sophomore from San Clemente, suffered a hand injury last week against Arizona but is expected to start. Wilson has completed 60% of his passes, 14 for touchdowns, with 12 passes intercepted. He also has rushed for five touchdowns. Sophomore Adam Schulz backs up Wilson. Schulz passed for 142 yards and a touchdown against Arizona.

Receiver Dres Anderson, who played at Riverside J.W. North High, has caught five touchdown passes; Sean Fitzgerald, who played at Mission Viejo High, has four.

Carrying on

Senior tailback Silas Redd rushed for 112 yards and a touchdown in 19 carries against Notre Dame, and appeared to run with more verve than in any previous game.

Leading rusher Tre Madden could return from a hamstring injury, but freshman Justin Davis will sit out the rest of the season after undergoing ankle surgery. If Madden remains sidelined or limited, sophomore Javorius Allen and freshman Ty Isaac will back up Redd.

Utah's Bubba Poole has averaged 68 yards rushing per game. Lucky Radley, who played at Woodland Hills Taft, has rushed for two touchdowns. The Utes have lost only one fumble.

Getting defensive

USC's offensive line will try to put behind last week's penalty-plagued performance. It won't be easy against a Utah defense that is averaging a conference-best 3.14 sacks per game.

Utah's Trevor Reilly, who plays end and linebacker, has 8 1/2 tackles for losses, including 3 1/2 sacks. End Nate Orchard, who also has 3 1/2 sacks, has forced three fumbles.

USC's defense rebounded from poor performances against Arizona State and Arizona and played fairly well against Notre Dame. The Trojans will be without linebacker Morgan Breslin and, possibly, safety Dion Bailey because of injuries. Anthony Sarao will start at linebacker in place of injured Lamar Dawson. Josh Shaw moves from safety to cornerback to fill in for injured Anthony Brown.

Kicking in

After Andre Heidari missed two of three attempts against Notre Dame, USC opened the competition for field-goal duties. Special teams coach John Baxter oversaw a weeklong contest between Heidari and walk-ons Alex Wood and Craig McMahon. Heidari has made six of 11 field-goal attempts, only two of seven from beyond 30 yards. Wood kicked eight extra points last season but did not attempt a field goal.

Utah's Andy Phillips, a former member of the U.S. ski team, has made 12 of 14 field-goal attempts, including five of seven from 40 yards or farther.

gary.klein@latimes.com

Twitter: @latimesklein

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