2012 College Football Preview: No. 13 USC at Utah
It's been a year of disappointment thus far for quarterback Matt Barkley, who forewent the 2012 NFL draft to pursue a Heisman Trophy and national title. Neither seem attainable at this point, but nothing is out of the question, either.
The Utes are coming off a bye week after being dissembled on the road by Arizona State, 37-7. Still, an upset would give them their biggest win since a 2008 Sugar Bowl triumph over Alabama.
What to expect with USC: Matt Barkley to show up in a big way. In his last two games he's completed just 42-of-75 (56.0 percent) of his passes with just two touchdowns to four interceptions. This is not what NFL scouts are looking for, nor are Heisman voters. However, Utah's back seven has been susceptible to the pass: The Utes have allowed an average of 264.7 yards per game against FBS teams, giving up seven touchdowns and forcing just one interception.
What to expect with Utah: DT Star Lotulelei to be the focal point of the defense. Not that this is surprising or anything — he's already contributed 19 tackles (4.0 TFL), a sack and two forced fumbles — but his performance will determine how Barkley plays. Lotulelei will be placed on center Khaled Holmes, who has been bothered by a lingering ankle injury and missed the Stanford game. If the Utes have any chance of winning, Lotulelei will have to get a consistent pass rush and force Barkley into some poor decisions.
Prediction: The stadium will be rocking as the Utes host arguably their biggest game in school history. It's nationally televised and a loss would certainly hold USC back from any BCS title dreams (although those are still cloudy at the moment).
USC has rushed for 212 yards per game with Holmes in the lineup — without him, the Trojans were held to 26 rushing yards in a loss. Utah doesn't have the skill players to hang with those on the other side. Even if it holds its own in the first half, there's no doubt that the Trojan offense will pull away in the third and fourth quarter.
USC 31, Utah 17 -- via Week 6 predictions