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Insider

Five storylines: USC vs. Utah

10/2/2012

1. Two teams with a lot to lose: Coming into the season, this was penciled in as a highlight matchup between the expected front-runners for the Pac-12 South. Instead, both teams already have a conference loss, so another defeat would really be a blow in terms of conference standings.

2. USC defensive pressure vs. Utah QB Jon Hays: The Utes have given up 11 sacks behind an inexperienced offensive line, while the Trojans already have 16 sacks to their credit. Look for USC's pass-rushers to pin their ears back and come after Hays early and often.

3. Homecoming for USC RG John Martinez: Two weeks ago, Martinez went up against his brother, Keni Kaufusi, a defensive lineman at Cal. He won’t face any relatives this week, but it will be homecoming for the former Murray (Utah) Cottonwood star. Martinez will have several former high school teammates lining up for the Utes.

4. USC's physical offense vs. Utah's strong defense: USC's only loss of the season came against Stanford's tough defensive front, and this is where the Utes offer the biggest challenge. Utah is solid against the run -- ranked No. 27 in the nation -- and it will rotate as many as 12 players along the defensive line.

5. USC passing-game efficiency: As the Trojans head into the heart of their schedule, there are still concerns over the timing and crispness of the passing game. There is too much talent there with Matt Barkley, Robert Woods and Marqise Lee, but so far the results haven’t been what the trio saw at the end of 2011. USC fans would welcome this game as a return to that kind of performance.