USC Football Stays On Road To Play No. 24 Utah On Friday Night|
Sept. 18, 2016
In a matchup between last year’s Pac-12 South Division co-champs, USC remains on the road as it visits undefeated No. 24 Utah under the lights in a rare Friday contest for the Trojans. It is only USC’s fifth trip ever to Salt Lake City and just the third since 1917. Expect 45,807-seat Rice-Eccles Stadium to be sold out. It’s just the sixth time that Troy has played a Friday game since 1990 (the Trojans have won the past 5). For the second time this year, USC is looking to bounce back from a loss to an AP Top 10 team, this time after falling this past Saturday at No. 7 Stanford. Faced with the nation’s toughest schedule, the Trojans will be playing their third AP Top 25 team in 4 games this year (all away from home). USC’s decisive home win over No. 3 Utah last fall came a year after its last-second road loss to the Utes. Ute fans and players will recognize a familiar face wearing Cardinal-and-Gold: Trojan DT Stevie Tu’ikolovatu, who transferred to Troy this fall from Utah. It is unlikely, however, that Utah or USC fans will remember Harvey Holmes, the head coach at both schools in the early 1900s. USC, under head coach Clay Helton, will be looking to get more productivity, consistency and sound play out of its offense (last week, the Trojans had just 10 points, converted only 4-of-12 third downs and were penalized 6 times for false starts), while on defense USC needs to get off the field quicker and eliminate breakdowns that led to big plays (Stanford had the ball 34:14 and got 404 total yards, including a pair of 56-yard TDs). The Trojan offense is guided by QB Max Browne, with help off the bench from QB Sam Darnold, along with TBs Justin Davis and Ronald Jones III and WRs JuJu Smith-Schuster, Darreus Rogers and Steven Mitchell Jr. ILB Cameron Smith, the Pac-12’s tackle leader, and CB-WR-RET Adoree’ Jackson are among Troy’s defensive leaders. Utah, with longtime head coach Kyle Whittingham at the helm, has captured its first 3 games of 2016, including a 1-point win over in-state rival BYU and by 17 points this past Saturday at San Jose State. This will be Utah’s Pac-12 opener. The Utes’ offense features QB Troy Williams, a junior college transfer previously at Washington, RBs Troy McCormick and Zack Moss and WR Tim Patrick. Utah’s defense ranks in the national Top 20 in sacks (second), interceptions, scoring defense, pass efficiency defense, total defense and pass defense. Leading the defensive charge are 2015 All-Pac-12 first teamers S Marcus Williams and DT Lowell Lotulelei, along with LBs Cody Barton and Sunia Tauteoli. The Utes’ also have a pair of premier specialists in skier-turned-PK Andy Phillips, a 2014 All-Pac-12 first team pick, and P Mitch Wishnowsky, who tops the country in punting. It is fitting that USC, which has produced more Olympians, medalists and gold medalists than any U.S. university, is playing in a stadium that hosted Olympic opening/closing ceremonies (Troy has played in 3 such stadiums). The game will air nationally on FS1 (and former USC head coach John Robinson will be part of the Sports USA national radio broadcast). Coaches will be wearing “Coach to Cure MD” sleeve patches to raise awareness and funds for Duchenne muscular dystrophy research.