2017 Utah Preview
Updated: Aug 27, 2018
SC has four quarters to figure it out- The only game in which the Trojans looked like a top-10 team was in their dominant victory against Stanford. Otherwise, SC has been mediocre at best. If the Trojans want to stay relevant nationally, they must establish confidence and a physical identity against Utah as they head into their rivalry game at Notre Dame. The Notre Dame game will be the toughest regular season test the Trojans will face this year with Notre Dame coming off a bye week and seeing the game as a chance to launch into the top 10. Notre Dame is vastly improved and also playing a very physical brand of football. If SC does not play at an optimal level, they could be staring at a double-digit loss.
Geller’s take- Next man up- tight End Daniel Imatorbhebhbe- With USC struggling to find consistency in the passing game and #1 receiver Deontay Burnett possibly missing the game with a toe injury, the return of redshirt sophomore Daniel Imatorbhebhe, even in a limited role this week, is hugely important. He was considered the #2 receiving target coming into the season with the potential of having a break-out season with the way he finished his freshman campaign. He’s not only a big target at 6’3, but his speed allows him to be a deep threat. His presence should be a calming influence on Darnold and look for the combination of Tyler Petit and Imatorbhebhe to be targeted frequently in the short to mid-range passing game against the Utes. -*Austin Geller is a senior at St Monica High School and interned for USCfootball.com this past summer.
Imatorbhebhe Part II- He quietly developed into the best run-blocking tight-end on the team. His return should bolster the running game, especially when the backs get beyond the line of scrimmage and he’s able to block downfield.
Offensive line will make a statement vs. Utah- Right tackle Chuma Edoga is expected to play this week after missing the majority of the WSU game and all of the Oregon State game. Whenever he has been out, the offense has struggled. With left tackle Toa Lobendahn returning last week, Sam Darnold will now have two of his best offensive lineman back in action, providing a little more confidence to step-up in the pocket and SC’s offensive coaches will look to re-commit to the running game. The SC coaching staff feels they can establish a successful running game against the Utes despite all of the talk about Utah’s strong defensive front. Utah’s top two defensive tackles are dealing with injuries and we are hearing a lot of positive chatter out of the football office about a great offensive performance expected against the Utes.
SC will use more of a two tight end set- Against Oregon State, SC used more double tight end looks then they have all season and it was effective. The return of Imatorbhebhe will allow SC to create mismatches in this formation against Utah’s 2-4-5 nickel defense. SC will typically run out of this formation but from a passing game perspective, it should help create quick throwing options for Darnold.
SC is getting healthier- Though SC lost freshman nose tackle Marlon Tuipulotu to season-ending back surgery this week, linebacker Jordan Iosefa and wide receiver Jalen Greene are back from concussion protocol and should play. Wide receiver Deontay Burnett sat out of practice this week to rest his toe and shoulder injuries but should be available. The coaches are hopeful that linebacker Porter Gustin will be back for the Notre Dame game. Freshman running back Stephen Carr is most likely out at least two more weeks with his foot injury.
-Utah’s defense ranks #2 in scoring defense giving up only 18.4 points per game. However, the combined record of their opponents is 7-17.
- Utah has the third best rushing defense in the conference but Arizona and Stanford each rushed for around 200 yards and Arizona was not playing with Khalil Tate at QB. Tate ran for over 300 yards versus Colorado last week.
-Senior linebackers Sunia Tauteoli (7.5 tackles for loss) and Kavika Luafatasaga (26 tackles) will be the players to watch on the Utes defense. They are great against the run and will need to be with a few of the Utah defensive tackles banged up. Helton believes they are the best linebacking tandem SC will face all year.
-Utah QB sophomore Tyler Huntley is a great dual-threat QB that went down with a shoulder injury against Arizona and the offense has not been the same with Troy Williams leading the way. Huntley is most likely not going to play but if he does, the SC defensive front will face a tougher test. Williams is no slouch though as he played his best game against the Trojans last year with 270 yards passing and 3 td’s.
-Sam Darnold was the second best QB in the nation last year when throwing under pressure with a 67.4 % completion rate. This year, he has regressed significantly and it didn’t improve against lowly Oregon State. He completed just 2 of 7 passes for 17 yards with one interception, two sacks and two fumbles.
-SC ranks ninth nationally in sacks with 16 and cornerback Jack Jones has four interceptions.
- Junior defensive lineman Rasheem Green has been one of the Trojans most consistent defenders and deserves the same amount of credit that Cam Smith and Uchenna Nwusu receive. Despite playing on a sprained ankle, Green already has more tackles for loss in one half of this season then he did all of last year.
Betting Info- SC opened up a 13.5 point favorite and the spread has since dropped to 12.5. SC is 3-0 straight up and against the spread in their last three home games against Utah. SC is 9-0 SU and 6-3 ATS in their last nine home games against Pac-12 opponents. SC is 1-5 ATS on the season. Utah is 6-3 SU and 8-1 ATS in its last nine games as a road underdog. The total for the game is 53 and the under is 7-1 in Utah’s last eight games.
Carol Skinner Memorial Tid-Bit- Since taking over for Porter Gustin, Christian Rector is tied for the most tackles for loss on the team with six tackles and leads the team with 4.5 sacks while forcing two fumbles.
**This report is dedicated to the memory of Jon Geller (51), the father of Austin Geller that contributes to this weekly report. Jon suddenly and tragically passed away Wednesday evening. A loyal Trojan who often traveled to road football games with his family, was a loving husband, father of two and a great friend to all of those lucky enough to know him.