USC vs. Utah score takeaway: Utes dominates Trojans to defend Pac-12 title and claim Rose Bowl berth

USC vs. Utah score takeaway: Utes dominates Trojans to defend Pac-12 title and claim Rose Bowl berth

No. 11 Utah served as the spoiler Friday night in a dominating 47-24 win over No. 4 USC in the 2022 Pac-12 Championship game. saw the Utes take advantage of USC quarterback Caleb Williams’ multiple injuries, not only sends Utah to the Rose Bowl for the second straight season, but also likely hits USC out of the college football playoffs.

While it won’t be determined for certain until Sunday, the two-loss Trojans are highly unlikely to see the four-team field with two losses to the Utes this season. No. 5 from Ohio State, who suffered only one loss to No. 2 Michigan, is expected to replace USC.

USC took a 17-3 lead in the first half thanks to some incredible plays from Williams. However, the Heisman Trophy favorite was slowed under the weight of two injuries, including a hamstring injury that opened the door for Utah to rally from a 14-point deficit before halftime and beat the ‘USC 30-7 in the second half.

When the Utes eliminated the Trojans 43-42 on Oct. 15, tight end Dalton Kincaid was one of Utah’s heroes. With Kincaid slowed Friday night by a lower back injury, however, a variety of characters emerged as threats in the passing game for quarterback Cam Rising. After scoring five touchdowns against the Trojans in Game 1, Rising put on another huge performance on Saturday, which included 57-yard touchdown passes to Money Parks and 60-yard touchdown passes to Thomas Yassmin in the second half. Neither player was a top target for the Utes in the regular season, but both made huge plays amid a reduced role for Kincaid. With 5:29 remaining, Ja’Quinden Jackson sealed the result with a 53-yard touchdown run.

Otherwise, the story was Williams. The sophomore star threw for two touchdowns and ran an incredible 59 yards in the first quarter alone. He looked essentially unstoppable. However, a pinkie injury on his throwing hand and the hamstring injury limited his mobility and accuracy for the remainder of the game. As it slowed down, the Trojans also slowed down.

Williams “not even 50%”

When Williams rushed for a 59-yard gain in the first quarter to set up a touchdown that put USC ahead 14-3, he looked like the dynamic playmaker who had wowed the nation for much of the season. season. For most of the rest of the game, however, he looked like a different player. It turned out that dazzling run resulted in a hamstring injury, according to trainer Lincoln Riley.

One of the first clear signs that something may have changed for Williams came late in the second quarter when he was sacked on a second-and-one. Normally elusive, Williams couldn’t escape the grip of Utah defensive end Gabe Reid. A similar scene played out repeatedly throughout the rest of the game. Utah finished with seven sacks on Williams, who at times walked and ran with a noticeable limp.

“He wasn’t even 50 percent,” Riley said after the game. “I thought about getting him out, but he wouldn’t let me…possibly the most daring performance I’ve ever seen.”

Although he should remain a favorite for the Heisman Trophy, the tough night for Williams could add drama to the vote. Other potential candidates such as Michigan running back Blake Corum and Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker have also had to deal with season-ending injuries that have picked up steam in their campaigns for the award. If nothing else, the game showed just how important Williams is to USC. Once it was below 100%, the holes in the Trojans’ pass protection became more apparent, as did their inability to rule the football.

Utah repeat

A 29-26 Week 1 loss to Florida changed the outside perception around the Utes. Despite entering the season viewed as a potential CFP team, Utah faced a tough climb after just one game. When star tight end Brant Kuithe was lost early in the season to injury, coupled with the Utes falling to 4-2 with a loss at UCLA on Oct. 8, it looked like a disappointing year was coming. loomed on the horizon. However, as has become the norm for the program under 18th grade Kyle Whittingham, Utah persevered.

While UCLA’s loss essentially knocked Utah out of CFP contention, the Utes beat USC for the first time the following week and remained locked in the return to the Pac-12 title game. The program has been in the league championship game in four of the past five seasons and now has back-to-back titles. After suffering a second Pac-12 loss to Oregon in November, it actually took a convoluted tiebreaker for Utah to enter the Pac-12 Championship game against Washington and the Ducks. Regardless of how they ended up in the game, the Utes walked away with the trophy.

USC defense fails

While Williams’ injuries will rightly draw a lot of attention from Friday’s result, the lackluster play of the USC defense was arguably more important in determining the outcome. Utah converted 5 of 11 third downs and had three plays of 50 or more yards. A stark example of USC’s poor tackle came with Utah facing a third-and-19 from its own 43-yard line early in the third quarter. The game was tied at 17 and it looked like the Trojans were about to force a three-and-out when Rising hit Parks for a game-tying touchdown.

Many defenders had a chance to tackle Parks, but he sped through the defense and gave Utah their first lead. The Utes finished with 533 yards and were effective on the ground and through the air. The Trojans have been feasting on turnovers all year (they finish +21 in turnover margin) but they are going to be a domestic title contender in Year 2 under Riley, they will need to make improvements significant defenses.

CFP hopes for Ohio State

For now, Ohio State’s 45-23 loss to Michigan last week seemed like a fatal blow to the Buckeyes’ CFP aspirations, as it knocked them out of the Big Ten Championship Game and the top four in the CFP standings. It turns out Ohio State may still have a shot at competing for a national championship. Unless the CFP selection committee decides to admit a two-game losing streak for the first time in its nine-year history, Ohio State will be an obvious choice to include in the field. At 11-1, the Buckeyes could reach the playoffs for the second time as non-divisional champions. They also succeeded with an 11-1 record in 2016 when Penn State won the Big Ten East, although they lost 31-0 to Clemson in the semifinals.

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