Football

Sports editor predictions — USC vs. Utah

Annenberg Media sports editors predict how USC’s home matchup against Utah will play out.

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Before each game this USC football season, Annenberg Media’s sports staff will make prop predictions and pick a winner. Read on to see our editors’ picks for Week 6 against Utah.

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USC will win this game, but not by much. Junior quarterback Kedon Slovis looked like the freshman Kedon Slovis so many came to know and love last Saturday as he completed over 65% of his passes while throwing for 276 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. While fans were right to rejoice after that performance, Colorado features one of the worst defenses in the league against the pass, and Slovis won’t have as easy a time against Utah’s defense. The Utes rank third in pass defense in the Pac-12, only surrendering 163.5 yards per game to quarterbacks. With that kind of passing defense it’s likely Slovis might not have an explosion like last week, but with the Utes run defense giving up 140.5 yards per game, expect a solid performance from the USC run game, especially senior running back Keaontay Ingram.

The resurgence of junior linebacker Drake Jackson with his first multi-sack game of the season was a welcome sight that could provide the Trojans with a spark to help aid their defensive line woes. These woes have been especially prevalent in the Trojans’ last two home losses where they’ve been blown out. Utah had to switch quarterbacks mid-season, and while sophomore quarterback Cameron Rising has shown potential the Utes don’t have enough firepower and consistency to keep up with the Trojans.

Prediction: 31-24 USC

- Skyler Trepel

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To borrow a concept you may or may not have forgotten about from high school math class, the absolute value average score difference in USC’s five games so far is 21.8 points. That means the Trojans are either winning or losing their matchups by about three touchdowns. In a season that has included roller coaster highs and lows, somehow, most games have been decided by the third quarter.

But as the season approaches the midway point, USC should find some semblance of consistency. The more time the team has under interim head coach Donte Williams, the more the players and personnel will settle into a groove. I expect a nail-biter, back-and-forth game against Utah that will ultimately result in a USC one-score victory. For a Coliseum crowd that has mostly seen nothing but duds this season, this would be a welcome change.

- Eddie Sun

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My relatively low projection for London isn’t at all a knock on the star receiver, but moreso a nod to the structure of USC’s offense heading into Saturday. Guys around him like freshman tight end Michael Trigg and sophomore receiver Gary Bryant Jr. are stepping into their roles and seeing their usage expand more and more as the season goes along, and though it’s not a problem to rely on London because (breaking news) he’s really good, Kedon Slovis has reliable options around him.

The Trojans have also seemed increasingly confident in their run game recently, and I don’t think the passing attack will be as prolific as it was in Colorado because, well, it was Colorado. And, finally, Utah has allowed more than 50 yards to a single receiver just once this season. That’s more than the number of Biletnikoff frontrunners the Utes have lined up against, sure — but I’m not saying London will be totally silent. He’ll be great, as he always is, but it might not translate to an absurd performance in terms of yardage.

- Nathan Ackerman

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I expect the Trojans to throw for more touchdowns than they score on the ground in Saturday’s game against Utah. USC’s pass-heavy offense always leaves the door open for a big gain and a touchdown, and Drake London is the most reliable threat the Trojans have in any part of the field; the red zone is no exception. This season has also seen the emergence of a variety of receiving weapons, including Gary Bryant Jr., who has shown flashes of being a serious deep threat, and Michael Trigg, who hauled in a 46-yard touchdown last Saturday. Expect the Trojans’ receivers to share the receptions and for USC to throw the ball upward of 35 times, which it has done all but once this season. My feeling is that the high volume of passes overall will lead to several passing touchdowns.

- Wyatt Allsup

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USC’s offense has struggled all season to consistently score, but besides a disastrous Oregon State game, Kedon Slovis has done a great job of protecting the ball and limiting interceptions. Utah ranks fifth in the Pac-12 in points allowed per game but lands in the bottom half of the conference when it comes to forcing interceptions and fumbles. As long as the Trojans play their normal offensive game they should be able to avoid turning the ball over. USC’s defense, which ranks third in interceptions, will look to pick off sophomore Cameron Rising who has yet to throw an interception this year. I think USC will win this turnover battle 3-1 in what should start its first winning streak of the season.

- L.J. Dow

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Slovis did not get sacked last week against Colorado, but the Buffaloes aren’t exactly known for their defense. USC was also able to establish a ground game, which allowed Slovis to attempt a season-low 29 passes and avoid the same pressure he might get in a more pass-heavy game. While a three-back rotation may have surprised Colorado after the Trojans took a 1A-1B approach through the first few weeks, Utah should be more prepared to face Darwin Barlow and will have scouted how the Trojans utilize each of their backs. The Trojans will likely have to rely more on the passing game to beat the Utes, which could result in Utah adding a couple of sacks to its seven on the season.

- Amanda Sturges

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Call me crazy, but I think USC ends this season in the top 25. Donte Williams said it after the team’s win at Boulder — Kedon Slovis came out with a different look in his eyes and his performance proved it. Drake London continues to expose opposing secondaries, and we are starting to see other players step up (shoutout Michael Trigg for his first Trojan touchdown). I think USC turned a corner after its game against Colorado, being that it was able to establish the run game and had arguably one of its best defensive efforts of the season.

The losses to Stanford and Oregon State weren’t pretty … but hey, Oregon only dropped five places after losing to Stanford while it kicked out USC from No. 14. With games against No. 22 Arizona State and No. 14 Notre Dame on the road, the Trojans have the chance to reestablish themselves. But first, defending home-field advantage at the Coliseum is critical, especially tomorrow against the Utes, if the Trojans want to have any shot at being considered a top 25 team.

- Ava Brand