- Johnny Curren, WeAreSC, Reporter
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LOS ANGELES -- Two Pac-12 programs in the midst of up-and-down seasons will meet up this Saturday when USC (4-3 overall, 1-2 Pac-12) hosts Utah (4-3 overall, 1-3 Pac-12). The Trojans have shown renewed life under interim coach Ed Orgeron, but they’re coming off a disheartening 14-10 loss to Notre Dame. Kyle Whittingham’s Utes, meanwhile, have exceeded expectations to a certain degree in 2013. They upset No. 5 Stanford on Oct. 12, but then turned around and fell to Arizona this past weekend, 35-24.
Scoring: 35.1 points per game (No. 5 Pac-12, No. 36 overall)
Rushing: 188.9 yards per game (No. 7 Pac-12, No. 46 overall)
Passing: 260.4 yards per game (No. 8 Pac-12, No. 46 overall)
Total: 499.3 yards per game (No. 7 Pac-12, No. 42 overall)
Quarterback: No. 7 Travis Wilson (6-foot-7, 240 pounds, So.), No. 12 Adam Schulz (6-1, 205, So.)
Directing Utah’s balanced spread attack, Wilson is a capable passer who can also do some damage with his feet. He averages 279.3 total yards of offense per game, but he’s also thrown an eye-popping 12 interceptions. Wilson left last Saturday’s clash with the Wildcats with an unspecified hand injury, however, and while recent indications are that he’ll likely play against USC, his status remains up in the air. If he can’t go, Schulz, who completed 12 of 23 passes for 142 yards and one touchdown in his place, will get the nod.
Running Back: No. 34 Bubba Poole (6-0, 196, So.), No. 44 Lucky Radley (5-8, 187, Jr.), No. 13 Kelvin York (5-11, 220, Sr.)
Poole leads the Utes with 68 rushing yards per game, while also ranking No. 2 on the team with 26 catches. York and Radley are also likely to receive a significant number of carries, with Radley averaging 7.3 yards per run.
Wide Receiver: No. 6 Dres Anderson (6-1, 187, Jr.), No. 8 Anthony Denham (6-4, 222, Sr.), No. 83 Sean Fitzgerald (6-3, 200, Sr.)
Anderson is a talented big play receiver who poses a serious threat to a somewhat questionable USC secondary. Leading Utah with 31 grabs for 621 yards (20.03 yards per reception) and five touchdowns, he ranks tied-for-first nationally in receptions of 50 yards or longer (five).
Tight End: No. 85 Greg Reese (6-5, 250, Jr.), No. 87 Siale Fakailoatonga (6-4, 245, Fr.)
The Utes lost talented veteran Jake Murphy to a season-ending wrist injury on Oct. 3, and Westlee Tonga has also been sidelined. As a result, Utah hasn’t utilized the tight end lately.
Offensive Line: LT No. 73 Jeremiah Poutasi (6-5, 345, So.), LG No. 76 Jeremiah Tofaeono (6-2, 320, Sr.), C No. 64 Vyncent Jones (6-3, 305, Sr.), RG No. 59 Junior Salt (6-2, 325, Jr.), RT No. 60 Siaosi Aiono (6-2, 305, So.)
Poutasi and Tofaeono are the headliners up front for a Utah offensive line unit that has performed solidly this fall, clearing the way for a ground attack that is averaging over 55 yards more per game than it did in 2012. In terms of their pass protection, they’ve given up 11 sacks through seven games.
Scoring: 26.7 points per game (No. 7 Pac-12, No. 61 overall)
Rushing: 157.4 yards per game (No. 7 Pac-12, No. 61 overall)
Passing: 255 yards per game (No. 8 Pac-12, No. 92 overall)
Total: 412.4 yards per game (No. 9 Pac-12, No. 76 overall)
Defensive Line: No. 8 Nate Orchard (6-3, 255, Jr.), No. 91 Tenny Palepoi (6-2, 300, Sr.), No. 58 L.T. Tuipulotu (6-1, 305, Sr.), No. 9 Trevor Reilly (6-5, 255, Sr.)
A shaky USC offensive line faces a steep challenge in a fast and aggressive Utah defensive line. Amassing 16 of the team’s conference-best 22 sacks, they’re led by Orchard and Reilly. Reilly is the team-leader in tackles (58) and will also line up at strongside linebacker on occasion depending on the Utes’ defensive alignment. This unit did struggle noticeably against the run last weekend, however, giving up 300 yards to Arizona.
Linebacker: No. 41 Jared Norris (6-1, 230, So.), No. 53 Jason Whittingham (6-2, 240, So.), No. 9 Trevor Reilly (6-5, 255, Sr.)
Norris is No. 2 on the team with 56 stops, while Whittingham – who missed the first two games of the season due to injury – averages a team-best 8.2 tackles per game. Senior Brian Blechen was expected to be the leader of this group, but he had knee surgery in August and has been sidelined.
Safety: No. 15 Michael Walker (5-9, 182, Sr.), No. 18 Eric Rowe (6-1, 205, Jr.), No. 25 Mike Honeycutt (5-10, 181, Sr.)
A Utes secondary marked by inexperience has been exploited at times by some of the more prolific passing attacks that they’ve faced. Rowe, the veteran of the group, has been the top performer, compiling 46 tackles.
Cornerback: No. 1 Keith McGill (6-3, 205, Sr.), No. 11 Davion Orphey (6-0, 187, Jr.)
McGill is the Utes’ most talented cover man, and he’s made a Pac-12-best seven pass breakups to go along with one interception that he returned for a touchdown against UCLA. Orphey has started five games this season, compiling 20 tackles and two pass breakups.
Punter: No. 33 Tom Hackett (6-0, 187, So.)
Hackett leads the Pac-12 in punt average (43.8 yards) and punts inside the 20-yard line (17).
Kicker: No. 39 Andy Phillips (5-11, 210, Fr.)
Phillips started out the 2013 season red hot, making his first 11 field goal attempts before hitting just 1-of-3 against Arizona.
Punt returner: No. 16 Geoffrey Norwood (5-8, 175, So.)
Norwood averages 7.4 yards per return -- the No. 6 mark in the Pac-12.
Kick returner: No. 6 Dres Anderson (6-1, 187, Jr.), No. 34 Bubba Poole (6-0, 196, So.)
As a team Utah averages 20.9 yards per kickoff return.
LOS ANGELES -- Two Pac-12 programs in the midst of up-and-down seasons will meet up this Saturday when USC (4-3 overall, 1-2 Pac-12) hosts Utah (4-3 overall, 1-3 Pac-12).