So here it is, the biggest game on the 2012 schedule. It might go down as the biggest regular season game in Utah football history. It also has the potential to be the first time the Utes host the number one team in the nation. It's a big deal and will go along way toward defining the Pac-12 South race and Utah's standing in the the conference.
Last year's game, the official first-ever of the Pac-12, the Utes overcame a spotty offense and slow start to nearly tie it at the end of regulation. It was a tough loss. But it also showed this program could go toe-to-toe with arguably the most talented squad in the conference and still come out with a great deal of dignity.
Still, it could be argued this game was only close because the Trojans had yet to find their groove. USC entered the contest on the heels of a less than stellar 19-17 win over Minnesota - the same Gophers who, a week after taking the Trojans to the wire, lost, at home, to New Mexico State.
Of course, it's not like Utah was firing on all cylinders themselves. Wynn was in bad shape and that led to a clunky, and at times ineffective, offense. What kept the Utes in the game was their defense. They created enough turnovers to reject the Trojan advances and did just enough on the offensive end to make it a game in the fourth quarter.
This year, it's unlikely USC is as self-inflicting as they were a year ago. Conversely, it's likely Utah enters with a bit more offensive depth, consistency and more importantly, stability. Wynn, if he does remain healthy, should have a better throwing motion and the Utes' defense, which created three turnovers last year, will be even better this go around.
So, who's made more strides since these two teams last met?
That might ultimately decide who's the winner in this game. The Trojans should be a legitimate national championship contender, but they're not infallible. This is a winnable game. At least, it appears to be a winnable game in July, who knows if it will be that when these two teams actually do meet in October. It's also going to be a tough, tough game and Utah hasn't exactly fared well against top-ten teams, either here or on the road, the last three seasons.
In the end, this game very well could come down to Jordan Wynn, who's Utah's biggest question mark heading into the season. When he's on, and to be sure he hasn't been on since Iowa State in 2010, they're a very tough offense to stop. He's got the weapons, both in the backfield with John White IV and with his receiving core, to do damage if he's healthy. That, of course, remains to be seen.
If he is. If we enter this showdown with a healthy Wynn, I anticipate a very contested, exciting performance. I don't know if Utah will win, but I wouldn't be surprised if the game was for the taking at the end - just as it was last year.