Will Utah finally get a chance to play an actual football game? That just may be the Pac-12 headliner heading into the weekend as the 2-0 USC Trojans are scheduled to play the Utah Utes Saturday night at Rice-Eccles Stadium in what would be Utah's first game of the abbreviated 2020 season.
USC pulled off the upset in the meeting between the two schools last year with third-string quarterback Matt Fink leading the Trojans to a seven-point win over then-10th-ranked Utah.
USC Trojans Outlook
The Trojans are 2-0, but those wins have come by a combined five points over Arizona and Arizona State. Both victories came in come-from-behind fashion, with go-ahead touchdowns coming in the final two minutes of both.
The program has been preaching resiliency instead of rust and mettle instead of malaise as it prepares to face a team of which there is no 2020 film.
The Trojans may just boast the top quarterback-wide receiver combo in the conference, however, as Kedon Slovis leads the Pac-12 in passing yards and Amon-Ra St. Brown is second in receiving yards. St. Brown and Tyler Vaughns are tied for the team lead with 14 receptions through the first two games. That's just two behind the Washington State duo of Renard Bell and Travell Harris, who have 16 apiece for the Cougars.
Utah Utes Outlook
The Utes' first two games of the season (against Arizona and UCLA) were canceled due to a spread of positive COVID-19 tests and Utah not having the minimum number of players available to suit up in either case. Despite a rise in cases in the state of Utah (and California for that matter), head coach Kyle Whittingham said they are above that threshold so far this week and should be good to go.
Whittingham, the third-longest tenured coach in college football, made news a little over two weeks ago when he agreed to an extension through 2027 to stay with the program.
Senior Jake Bentley, a graduate transfer from South Carolina, is expected to be the Utah starter under center. But Whittingham and company have kept it tight-lipped as Bentley has battled redshirt sophomore Cam Rising and senior Drew Lisk. The quarterback situation might appear murky on the outside, but Whittingham is using it to his advantage.
"Why give the opponent any lead time to prepare?" Whittingham said. "Much like the running backs, there's a fairly significant difference in the style and skill set of a couple of the guys. So we'll probably just keep that to ourselves.
"It's not the end of the world if it gets out somehow. I hope it doesn't get out. But it works to our advantage if they don't know who to prepare for. That's the approach we're taking."
Betting Line and Pick
USC is a small favorite in this one, laying three points on the road, with an over/under of 58. The Trojans have been shaky, but publicly the program is trying to change that narrative.
It's tough to know what type of team Utah will have, especially after losing Tyler Huntley to the NFL. The Utes are said to have 90% of their team available this week, including "most" of their starters, which doesn't sound promising.
Pick: USC -3