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Opponent Preview: USC’s Defense

NCAA Football: Southern California at Arizona Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Through two games, USC has been forced to battle back from behind late in the fourth quarter to clinch their 2-0 record, which wasn’t surprising in a week one battle against Arizona State, but a near loss in week two to Arizona suggests the Trojans have some work to do defensively.

So far, opposing quarterbacks have been able to complete of 35 of 59 passes against the USC secondary led by junior safeties Talanoa Hufanga (6’1”, 215 lbs.) and Isaiah Pola-Mao (6’4”, 205 lbs), who have combined for 26 total tackles, with Pola-Mao recording two pass deflections and Hufanga taking USC’s only interception of the season for 27 yards last week against Arizona. Junior cornerback Olaijah Griffin (6’0”, 175 lbs.) has been equally effective downfield, keeping tight coverage against opposing receivers in both contests, while batting away two targets and racking up eight tackles, including five solo efforts.

Up front, Utah’s run game will need to contend with USC’s leading defender, junior lineman, Marlon Tuipulotu (6’3”, 305 lbs.). The Trojan’s human boulder is an imposing force on the line, bullying his way through for one sack this season along with eleven solo tackles, with sophomore linebacker, Drake Jackson (6’4”, 255 lbs,) doubling Tuipulotu’s sack count with a pair against the Wildcats.

Having allowed 416 yards on the ground this season on 78 rush attempts, USC is allowing 5.33 yards per rush, a figure that should bode well for Utah’s Devin Brumfield and Jordan Wilmore, two of the more known commodities among the offensive unit, assuming both are healthy and suiting up this week.

Considering the Trojans are coming into Salt Lake with two weeks of actual playing time under the belts while taking on a Utah team that is likely a few reps short of being in true “football shape”, it’s easy to understand why the Men of Troy are a three point favorite, but for three straight weeks, USC will be playing an opponent who hasn’t gifted them hours of game footage to dissect. With a number of unknown but promising variables on the offensive side of the ball and the added benefit of a cold, dark night in elevation, Clay Helton’s crew should prepare to mount another fourth quarter miracle.