Championship weekend will kick off tonight, and the premier game will be the PAC-12 Championship between Utah and USC. A lot is on the line for Lincoln Riley and the Trojans, with their College Football Playoff hopes most likely coming down to the outcome of this game. We’ll preview the game and then get into a pick for the action.
The Trojans enter tonight with an 11-1 record and their only loss on the season comes from tonight’s opponent the Utes. That one-point loss is the only blemish on the Trojans' impressive season so, between the College Football Playoff chances and avenging that loss, the motivation for the game won’t be lacking for USC.
Offensively the Trojans have the ability to score on any defense they play right now, especially with the way probable Heisman Caleb Williams is playing. USC is averaging 42.5 points and 506.8 yards per game, which are both top five in the country in their respective categories. Even with the loss to starting running back Travis Dye, the Trojans' offense has still been able to establish a strong run game alongside Williams and his superstar ability.
It’s the defense that has been the question mark for the Trojans, allowing 405.3 yards a game, the main reason for their loss to the Utes was the defense. Utah was able to put up 43 points in that game which is the most points they scored against a ranked opponent this season.
The Utes' running game has been impressive this season averaging 217.6 rushing yards a game which is 10th in the country. Utah has a wide range of players with rushing ability including quarterback Cam Rising who has six rushing touchdowns to go along with his 22 passing touchdowns. Running back Tavion Thomas leads the Utes in rushing yards with 687 and ruching touchdowns with seven.
Utah’s defense has been strong this season allowing only 21.3 points per game but the most points they allowed this season was to the Trojans who put up 42 points.
As of right now, the Trojans are favored by -2.5 and that will be my best play for this game. For starters, I really like this number for the Trojans getting it inside a football number but primarily the Trojans proved against UCLA they have the ability to win close games.
Despite their struggles, this USC defense has a strong ability to create turnovers with 19 on the season. The Utes are averaging 1.3 giveaways per game so if the Trojans can win the turnover battle I think they can certainly win by a field goal. Last weekend the Trojans forced two turnovers and the way Caleb Williams is playing giving him extra possessions will keep this game out of reach.
USC was also able to hold Notre Dame to only 90 rushing yards despite them possessing a very strong rush game much like the Utes. If USC can slightly limit the Utes' rushing attack it will become too much for them to keep pace with the Trojans' offense. Williams threw five touchdowns on this Utes' defense with two receivers going for over 100 yards in the game so the solid numbers Utah has put up on defense don’t mean anything when it comes to stopping the Trojans.
USC Trojans (-2.5)