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USC-Utah Preview Capsule

THURSDAY

No. 13 Southern California (3-1, 1-1 Pac-12) at Utah (2-2, 0-1), 9 p.m. (ESPN)

Line: Southern California by 14

Series Record: USC leads 7-3

WHAT'S AT STAKE

USC is trying to make its way back up the polls and into the national championship hunt after a loss last month to Stanford, with games remaining against four ranked opponents. Utah is trying to bounce back from a rough Pac-12 opener against Arizona State. A win arguably would be Utah's biggest since a Sugar Bowl upset capped a perfect 2008 season.

KEY MATCHUP

Utah DT Star Lotulelei against USC C Khaled Holmes. Lotulelei was the top defensive lineman in the Pac-12 last year and he sets the tone again up front, with 19 tackles (four for loss), two forced fumbles and a sack. Holmes is one of the nation's best centers, but sat out the Stanford loss with a right ankle injury and may be hobbled again. Getting pressure up front may be the only chance Utah has against the talented Trojans.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Southern California: WRs Robert Woods and Marqise Lee have combined for 65 receptions — four fewer than Utah's entire roster — despite going against defenses dropping safeties deep to minimize damage by the dangerous duo. The answer for the Trojans has been to run the ball more. But after watching Arizona State's Taylor Kelly pass for a career-high 326 yards against Utah, USC's Heisman Trophy candidate QB Matt Barkley might think about airing it out more.

Utah: RG Siaosi Aiono makes his first collegiate start and fellow freshman Jeremiah Poutasi makes only his third at right tackle as Utah reshuffles its O line again. The Utes have struggled to run the ball and protect the passer. A defense led by S T.J. McDonald, who packs a punch and can double as a defensive end, won't make it any easier.

FACTS & FIGURES

The last time USC played in the state of Utah, it beat BYU 42-10 in Provo in 2004 en route to a national championship. ... Utah coach Kyle Whittingham is 6-1 coming off regular-season byes. ... Utah has won eight straight Thursday night games while USC is 22-10-4 on Thursdays. ... Utah and USC have not played in Salt Lake City in 95 years. ... Utah's roster features 37 California natives.