Back against the wall: USC looks to rebound vs. No. 24 Utah
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) Things are looking a bit grim for USC.
The Trojans are 1-2 and now they face No. 24 Utah on the road Friday. A loss to the Utes would make for the Trojans' first 1-3 start since 2001. An 0-2 start to Pac-12 play would mean USC would likely need to go undefeated in its remaining conference games just to have a chance at a league title.
And now coach Clay Helton is switching quarterbacks. Redshirt freshman Sam Darnold will make his first start for the Trojans, replacing Max Browne. The 6-foot-4, 225-pounder has played in all three games and thrown for 136 yards, two touchdowns, one interception and completed 63.6 percent of his passes. Darnold also provides a running threat.
''I would not have made the change if I wasn't confident in the decision,'' Helton said. ''What he has done on that stage versus Alabama showing the poise he did, versus Stanford showing the poise he did, the anticipation he has shown in his throws, his knowledge of the offense right now, he is making plays.''
Cornerback Adoree' Jackson said Helton had one message this week.
''In life there's only two things, you can be the answer or the one that makes excuses,'' Jackson said. ''So, obviously, we got to be the answer.''
On the opposite sideline, there's a little revenge at stake for the Utes. Utah was ranked No. 3 in the country in 2015 when a loss to USC started a downward spiral that ended with the Utes playing in the Las Vegas Bowl after at one time being in the conversation for the College Football Playoff.
''They're probably the most talented 1-2 team in the country,'' Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. ''They're dangerous. We're fully aware of that. We don't really pay any attention to record. We know what their capabilities are. We're not stressing that we owe them or anything like that. ... We'd like to create some momentum going into league play.''
Things to watch when Utah hosts USC:
SACK LAKE CITY: The Utes racked up 10 sacks against San Jose State last week and are ranked No. 2 in the country with 15 sacks overall. Ten different players have recorded a sack this year. Hunter Dimick leads the team with three.
BUTLER-BYRD BACK: Utah receiver Cory Butler-Byrd returned from a suspension last week and caught five passes for 66 yards. The 5-foot-10 speedster is immediately the Utes' second-best threat in the passing game and a complement to the 6-5 Tim Patrick.
''He's fast, he can go down the field and catch the deep ball,'' quarterback Troy Williams said. ''He'll take a bubble (screen) for 80 (yards) if you let him. He adds that dimension of another big playmaker out there.''
QUOTABLE: ''No team respects our passing game,'' Patrick said. ''The first three teams we played, they all pressed us and they were all lower-division teams. So what do you think the bigger-division teams are going to do? Press us just like everybody else did. So we're just going to have to show them that we can pass it, and once we do that I promise you they'll start backing up.''
HOME AGAIN: USC defensive tackle Stevie Tu'ikolovatu is a Salt Lake City native who played all 13 games with the Utes last season before transferring. He's started all three games with the Trojans.
''I don't know if the fans will like me, but I know my friends still do,'' Tu'ikolovatu said. ''I think it will be pretty cool. I probably have like 50 tickets already, so I will probably need more than that. That whole USC side will probably be my family.''
AP college football site: http://collegefootball.ap.org
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