Utah-USC was jam-packed with action, storylines, significance, emotion, controversy, drama and anything else you could want from a college football game. USC didn’t get a victory, but fans across the country were treated to an entertainment extravaganza.
Now that the game is over, we have a lot to talk about and a lot to process. Helping us with that task is Greg, a co-host of the “No Truck Stops: A Pac-12 Podcast,” which you can listen to at Apple, Spotify, Google, and wherever else you listen to your favorite college football and sports podcasts.
Greg gathered tons of interesting facts and made plenty of detailed observations on the Utes’ 43-42 win. Let’s see what he came up with:
“Without Dalton Kincaid and Cam Rising, Utah is a seven-win team,” Greg told Trojans Wire. “What an incredible performance from those guys. Even with a healthy (Brant) Kuithe I’ve thought Kincaid was Utah’s best offensive player since pretty early last year. Despite my very high opinion of him I’m still in awe of what he did in that game. He was one reception away from tying the NCAA record for tight end receptions.”
From Greg: Cam Rising was 16 of 16 when he was targeting Dalton Kincaid.
“Rising was incredible in his own right,” Greg explained. “Last night was the first time a Utah quarterback has had 400 yards passing since 2005. It just seemed like every time Utah needed a play Rising was up for it. He lifts a Utah team that would not be nearly this good without him.”
“Pac-12 refs are really really bad, but they are not uniquely bad to USC,” Greg told us. “I know USC fans came away from this game thinking they were robbed by the refs and to an extent they are right, some pivotal calls went against them that probably shouldn’t have gone against them. But at the same time, Utah has very real reasons to be upset by the officiating as well.”
“Throughout the game there were missed holding calls at key moments, including in the end zone, missed targeting, a Utah play blown dead after the snap for a review of a previous play, and at the end of the game USC was gifted extra time on the clock which could have won them the game,” Greg said. “So while I definitely would definitely agree with USC fans that the refs were bad in the game, I am not sympathetic to the idea that the refs are at fault for USC losing.”
“Cam Rising’s season has been really weird,” Greg noted. “In the first two and a half games of the season, I was very unimpressed with him, but I think he’s been much better since the second half of the San Diego State game.”
“In terms of what has made the difference for him, this will sound weird, but I think Kuithe’s injury may have been what has made the difference,” Greg said. “Early in the year Rising had some serious tunnel vision and it seemed Kuithe was the only target he trusted. In fact, I’m pretty sure Kuithe is still Utah’s second most targeted pass player on the season despite having been hurt for a few games. Once Kuithe got hurt it really forced Rising to open up and look at other guys, which I think has gotten him back into playing like the QB we all thought he was.”
“I think the biggest change is that Andy Ludwig stopped rushing up the middle on every first down, and it helped keep Utah out of obvious passing downs,” Greg said. “The actual passing plays that Utah was running are things that aren’t new, but before this every time they’d run those plays, the defense knew they were coming.”
“In the USC game the Utes did a much better job of keeping the defense on their toes, and they were actually able to get the receivers involved in a way they usually haven’t been able to,” Greg said. “However, I will say that I think USC’s defense is suspect when they’re not forcing turnovers, so maybe Utah’s offense hasn’t turned as much of a corner as it looks after this game.”
“I’ve always been a huge Kincaid believer, but this performance was several steps above anything he’s done before,” Greg said. “He’s had games with big production before and he’s made massive plays before but it has never been this obvious that he’s special than it was in this game.”
“People might be crushing Kyle Whittingham if it had failed, that’s just how it goes, but to me that was unquestionably the right decision,” Greg said. “Utah’s defense may have been better in the second half but they still looked to me like they were hanging on by a thread and their red zone defense throughout this season has been bad, so I don’t think it would’ve been smart to trust them to get a stop in overtime.”
“This way the defense had only 48 seconds and a much longer field with which to stop the USC offense. In all likelihood Utah was going to be in a 2-point conversion duel with USC in overtime, so I think there was no reason not to just go for it to win the game in regulation,” Greg explained.
“USC has a very talented offense, there is no doubt about that, but I don’t think they’re playoff ready as a team,” Greg noted. “The defense is just not nearly good enough. However, they’re still very much in the hunt for the Pac-12 title.”
“If there ends up being a rematch of this game in the title game I would probably favor USC,” Greg said. “Utah only won this game by one point and that was at home, and USC has the offense to beat anyone in the conference on a neutral site. But it was always going to be hard for this USC team to play with the consistency needed to be a playoff team.”
“If Cam Rising plays like this it is absolutely a possibility that Utah will beat Oregon, but Utah’s road performances have been very bad so far this year, so I am not optimistic about Utah getting the win there, especially with how good Oregon’s offense has looked after Georgia and how bad Utah has been defending the run,” Greg said.
“Nobody playing on a weeknight in Pullman should ever be confident. I certainly am not,” Greg said about Utah’s outlook for that Thursday night contest. “Utah theoretically matches up well with Wazzu and should win, but I’ll still be terrified the entire game.”
“UCLA exists to humble me,” Greg said. “I’ve been wrong about UCLA in back to back weeks, and it seems that I have not learned my lesson because I am once again picking them to lose.”
“I think Oregon has a very good offense, and I think their defense is better than they have shown,” Greg said. “(Dorian Thompson-Robinson) is, of course, an incredible quarterback, but Oregon just has more weapons and they’re gonna be at home, while UCLA’s wins over UW and Utah came at the Rose Bowl.”
Greg’s pick: Dorian Thompson-Robinson of UCLA
Greg’s pick: Chip Kelly of UCLA
Greg’s pick: UCLA
Greg’s pick: Utah’s defense
Greg’s pick: Trent Bray, defensive coordinator for Oregon State
Greg’s answer: “Can anyone at the top of the conference beat another top team on the road?”
Greg’s choice: Oregon vs. USC
Trojans Wire wishes to thank Greg for giving of his time and insights. Follow the “No Truck Stops: Pac-12 Podcast” for full football coverage and — in a few weeks — basketball coverage as well.
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