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Behind Enemy Lines: Previewing the Trojans with Conquest Chronicles

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Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

We take a look behind enemy lines with Nick Dempsey of Conquest Chronicles to learn more about the Trojans. Here's our Q&A:

1 - With Utah finally beating the Trojans last year, how are the Utes perceived by the Trojans and their fans?

When Utah defeated USC last season most fans assumed (and most still do) that USC and Steve Sarkisian lost a game they should have won. While they give due credit to Utah, fans point to bad play calling and questionable clock management from the USC coaching staff as the reason for the result. I don't think Utah's victory changed many USC fans' perception of the Utah program. The exceptionally strong start for Utah this season, however, has definitely turned some heads and changed perceptions.

2 - Do you want Kyle Whittingham as the Trojans coach, and do you think you could get him?

Personally, I just want someone who can coach well, get the most out of their players and get the program back on track. Whittingham seems like he can do that, but I also worry about whether he fits culturally into LA or not. It is a different environment with a different media and recruiting landscape as well. USC could certainly get his attention with a high profile job and plenty of money. Whether USC (or any program for that matter) could lure him away from Utah is a different story.

3 - Talk about the state of the program right now, obviously with the loss of the head coach. Are they banding together, or falling apart?

The players have rallied together. When they were told that Clay Helton would be the interim head coach, they gave him a standing ovation. The loss to Notre Dame also did not seem to break their spirits. There is plenty of fight left in this team. Whether that fight translates to victories is another matter.

4 - Before the season, did you imagine that it could be the Utes, and not a school from LA in the driver's seat for the South?

Not even a little bit. I had Utah as a solid 7-5 maybe 8-4. I saw Utah as a good team that just happened to have the unfortunate circumstance of playing in a loaded division.

5 - Do you think USC should be favored in Vegas?

Not really. On paper Utah is a better team right now, fortunately for us college football games are not decided on paper which is probably what Vegas is factoring into their line for this game. USC is at home, but that has not been much of an advantage lately as USC has lost their last two games at home.

6 - How do you see this game playing out?

Despite their record, USC is statistically impressive which is why all of the advanced statistical metrics like the F/+ and others are high on USC. The problem comes from not being able to finish games. USC raced out to a big early lead against Stanford and then collapsed. They started slow against Washington but had an opportunity to come back and win, but poor coaching decisions late in the game lead to a loss. Against Notre Dame the Trojans were leading late before collapsing in the fourth quarter with turnovers and poor execution.
I can see a similar patter playing out. USC may have flashes of brilliance throughout this game but can they finish, and can they slow down the Utah rushing attack?

7 - If Utah beats USC, how do they do it?

USC has struggled with stopping the inside run all season long and Utah happens to have one of the best running backs in the business. Utah on offense should focus on running the ball for big gains, and then take some shots downfield in the right spots.

The USC offense relies heavily on explosive plays and yards after catch so keeping plays in front of them will be key for Utah. The USC offensive line is struggling so Utah should not be afraid to bring pressure on Cody Kessler.

Thank you to Nick for spending some time with us, make sure to check out all of his work over at Conquest Chronicles.