This is essentially the Pac-12 South Championship, despite the fact that USC is neither bowl nor conference championship eligible.
If the Utes can beat the Trojans in the Coliseum, it will give them a leg up on the rest of the division. However, should USC prevail, that would send a message to the other teams in the Pac-12 South that the championship has to go through the Trojans.
With that in mind, here are the 10 most important things about Utah that USC fans need to know.
Actually, this fact has more to do with the Trojans, but it certainly will affect Utah.
That was the second half score of the USC-Minnesota game last Saturday, with the Gophers on the road blanking the Trojans and their offensive and defensive starters, 14-0.
An unranked, unsuccessful (3-9 in 2010), inexperienced Minnesota team with an entirely new coaching staff and offensive scheme came into the Coliseum this past Saturday as a 24-point underdog. They left having lost by only two points on a last-minute interception and shut out the Cardinal and Gold 14-0 in the second half.
Even USC's biggest rivals, Notre Dame and UCLA (though they lost), had successful second halves. Both outscored South Florida and Houston by 20-7, respectively.
What does that have to do with Utah?
Think about it. By letting Minnesota and a 2-star true freshman quarterback dominate them in the second half, the Trojans just gave the Utes all the inspiration they needed to come into the Coliseum and force USC into submission.
This past Saturday was the worst possible thing the Trojans could do for next Saturday. The Utes were somewhat down on themselves after a lackluster 27-10 win over Montana State, ranked in the FCS Top Five. As mediocre as they played, the success that a huge underdog Minnesota team had against USC has to give the Utes a great deal of heart.
They know they are much better than the Gophers, and now believe they can beat USC. The Trojans, despite what they might say this week, have to be disheartened by that poor showing against the Gophers.
Although they did not play in a BCS conference before joining the Pac-12, they still played some tough competition, including TCU, BYU and Air Force. They have also played some non-conference juggernauts like Alabama, Boise State, Texas A&M and Pitt.
Whittingham is 59-20 overall and has had three consecutive 10-win seasons: 13-0 in 2008, 10-3 in 2009 and 2010.
Those are some very impressive numbers, and I cannot imagine Lane Kiffin, at this stage in his career, matching wits with Whittingham and coming out on top.
If the Trojans are to win this one, it will be strictly due to the talent and toughness on the field. Hopefully the play-calling will not detract from the Trojans' effort like it did last Saturday.
I'm sure this guy needs no introduction to Trojan fans.
Norm Chow brings his offensive genius to Utah. In his first season as offensive coordinator under Kyle Whittingham, Chow would love nothing better than to beat Lane Kiffin and USC in the Coliseum. That would give the Utes a leg up on the Pac-12 South Championship and make up for those three unsuccessful seasons in Westwood under Rick Neuheisel.
Norm Chow's offense under a head coach like Whittingham will be far more productive and dangerous than it ever was under Neuheisel.
Against Montana State, Chow hit them hard in the first half, 24-0, then pulled back in the second half, playing a lot of subs in a fairly vanilla offense.
You didn't think Chow was about to show Kiffin what he has up his sleeve, did you?
I look for the Whittingham-Chow combination to win the first-ever Pac-12 South Division Championship and possibly go onto win the conference championship.
This is Norm Chow's latest project. From the quarterback master who gave college football the likes of
Jim McMahon, Steve Young, Ty Detmer, Philip Rivers, Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart comes his latest protege, Jordan Wynn.
Quarterback Jordan Wynn made his first start since a December shoulder surgery that kept him out of the Las Vegas Bowl. He adequately managed Chow's new pro-style offense, completing 15-of-23 passes for 101 yards and two TDs, with no interceptions.
However, his longest completion was for only 15 yards, and he was sacked twice.
Last season, Jordan completed 186-of-299 attempts for 2,334 yards and a 62.2 percentage. His longest was for 71 yards. He also threw 17 TDs against 10 interceptions and was sacked just six times.
Wide receivers Luke Matthews (11) and DeVonte Christopher (10), both juniors, will be the two targets Jordan Wynn will try to hit downfield.
Last Saturday, the Utes' tight ends—Dallin Rogers and Kendrick Moeai, both juniors—caught five passes each against Montana State.
Norm Chow will use the run to set up the passing game, and hope to create mismatches for Matthews and Christopher. Look for a lot of short passes to the tight ends, then a downfield strike to one of the wide receivers when Chow gets the matchup he likes.
Like USC, Utah was using a committee of tailbacks to run the ball. But against Montana State last Saturday, John "Wolf Man" White IV emerged as the go-to tailback. He carried 19 times for 150 yards, nearly eight yards a carry. His longest run was 25 yards, and he scored two TDs; one on a 10-yard run, the other on a 5-yard pass from Jordan Wynn.
White starred at Los Angeles Harbor Junior College and led them to a pair of league titles. They call him the "Wolf Man" because he loves wolves. He says they eat meat right down to the bone, and that's what he wants to do.
No doubt he will be looking to take a huge bite out of USC's front seven.
I don't know how USC's recruiting staff let this one get away, but the former South Torrance High School star set several records at Harbor JC, including all purpose yards, rushing yards, points, total touchdowns and rushing touchdowns. He also had an 107-yard kickoff return and 97-yard run from scrimmage, and also earned All-State honors at South Torrance.
I can see Chow licking his chops over this LaMichael James-style tailback.
Tauni Vakapuna was fairly even with White going into the game, but he could only manage 16 yards on 10 carries. His longest went for 11 yards. So he averaged just about a half a yard on his other nine carries.
When Lane Kiffin took over for Pete Carroll, USC fans hoped that both Norm Chow and Tim Davis would return to USC.
No such luck.
Chow and Davis both went to the NFL, then both later wound up back in Division I college football—Chow at UCLA, and Davis at Minnesota.
Now Kyle Whittingham has both of them at Utah.
So this Saturday will be a reunion of former Pete Carroll assistants at USC—Kiffin, Orgeron and Kennedy Pola on the USC sidelines, and Chow and Davis on the Utah side.
Davis is responsible for coaching the big guys up front who will try to keep the Trojan front four off of Jordan Wynn and open holes for John "Wolf Man" White IV.
Brain Blechen plays linebacker like a safety.
That's because he was a freshman All-American safety in 2010.
This season, Kyle Whittingham converted him to linebacker to bolster the front seven.
Matt Barkley cannot afford to get careless with this guy hanging around the middle. Last week, Blechen had two interceptions and 60 yards in returns.
Blechen added about 10 pounds to make the transition from safety to linebacker, but still showed plenty of quickness, covering slot receivers. Blechen set up Utah's first score with a 35-yard interception return.
The Utes have only five returning starters on defense. The cornerbacks, led by senior Conroy Black (pictured), are for the most part inexperienced. Joining Black are junior Ryan Lacy and Reggie Topps, along with sophomore Wykie Freeman.
Lacy was the standout against Montana State with eight tackles, five solo tackles, a sack and two pass deflections.
The safeties are also inexperienced with new starters sophomore Michael Walker, who had five assisted tackles against Montana State, and freshman Eric Rowe, a Texas product with nine tackles (three of them solo).
They will be backed up by junior Keith McGill from LaMirada, senior Greg Bird who had 19 tackles last season and Mike Honeycutt, a sophomore.
Lane Kiffin has been concerned about his offensive line during fall camp.
Hopefully he will have more than "two good players" on offense to stop the Utes' rush, which figures to be much tougher than Minnesota's.
The Utes' front four is led by senior Derrick Shelby (90) credited with 39 tackles last season. He had three against Montana State, including a sack last Saturday. Shelby is joined by 325-pound defensive tackle Star Lotulelei (92), a junior who had 20 tackles a year ago.
Also in the mix is 305-pound senior defensive tackle James Aiono, and 6'7", 270-pound defensive end Joe Kruger, a sophomore.