Roundtable: USC offense vs. Utah defense

A key matchup in the USC-Utah game will be the physical play of the Utes' defense. How do you think the Trojans' offense will fare?

Garry Paskwietz:

One of the more underrated aspects of the bye week is the rest it gave the team. The Trojans haven't looked consistently loose or crisp on offense through the first four games of the year, and this break should help give guys like Robert Woods and Khaled Holmes a chance to rest some nagging injuries. I think there was also a little mental fatigue coming into the season after an off-season full of hype. Combine that with 21 straight days of fall camp in unseasonably warm weather and no break before classes started the week of the Hawaii game, and you have a team that needed time off. The guess here is the USC offense will come out looking relaxed and rejuvenated against the Utes.

Greg Katz:

Well, we’re about to find out just how physically and emotionally improved the Trojans have become since that fateful Sept. 15 loss at Stanford. Call me a skeptic, but I need to see the improvement against a quality defensive line to believe it. I still have reservations about the physical play of the Trojans' offensive front against a tough, veteran Utah defensive line. The key to any improvement, of course, is the status of center Khaled Holmes or the productivity of backup Abe Markowitz. Another key will be the play at left tackle, which was such a liability against Stanford. Some of Thursday night’s responsibility will also fall on Lane Kiffin, who will need to balance the run and the pass. Bottom line: Thursday night is a real litmus test on the perceived improvement of the O-line.

Johnny Curren:

The offensive line is the most important unit to look at here, with the center position being the obvious key. So as long as Khaled Holmes or Abe Markowitz is in there with the first group, and Aundrey Walker or Max Tuerk put in a solid showing at left tackle, the Trojans’ passing game has a chance to really break out. The Utah secondary is in a state of flux after giving up 372 yards through the air to Arizona State, and the Utes’ defensive staff obviously isn’t sold on the unit’s production, making Reggie Topps a starting cornerback in place of Mo Lee. That, along with the fact that the defensive backs have just one interception on the year, leads me to believe they can be exploited. I’m less optimistic about the Trojans’ running game with those big, talented Utah defensive linemen up front, but as long as USC can keep the defense even somewhat honest, I think it will rule the game through the air.