Daily Trojan sports editor Will Laws interviewed Ryan McDonald, a sports editor of the Daily Utah Chronicle, earlier this week to give USC fans a better feel for the Utes ahead of Saturday’s showdown at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
DT: The Utes’ QB situation is a little uncertain, though head coach Kyle Whittingham did say on Tuesday that he expects Travis Wilson to play. Do you think that’s the right move, and what kind of performance do you expect him to give?
UC: Depends on your definition of “right move.” For the short term, playing Wilson is absolutely the right move. None of Utah’s other quarterbacks can lead the offense for four quarters. In the long term, it depends on how hurt he really is, but perhaps that goes without saying. If he’s at about 80 percent, playing him would be the best route. Any less than that and Kyle Whittingham will be risking that Wilson gets hurt more.
DT: Last week, Utah had a classic hangover performance in losing to Arizona after beating Stanford the week before. Is this squad a sleeping juggernaut or a one-hit wonder?
UC: Definitely somewhere in the middle, but probably closer to the juggernaut side. The Utes are genuinely very good. Not great, but very good. They played exceptionally well against Stanford and exceptionally badly against Arizona. The real Utah is somewhere in between that. The Arizona loss definitely was a hangover performance, though. They’re better than that.
DT: Both teams are awful at converting third-down attempts. Why has Utah struggled with this, and do you see that trend turning around against USC?
UC: I did a lot of research into this a few weeks ago and I feel like it has to do with lack of production on first and second down more than it does an inability to execute on third down. They’re pretty effective on third-and-a-few, but if it gets to be third and six or more, the Utes are very bad. They really need to stay out of third and longs if they want to succeed.
DT: What’s the mood around campus and Salt Lake about this Utes team?
UC: Really up and down. Everyone was crazy excited after the Stanford win, but after the way Utah played against Arizona, everyone is kind of down in the dumps. Pretty amazing what one game will do. I think the fears about Wilson’s injury have a lot to do with that, though. Had the Utes lost but if Wilson was just fine, people would still be riding the wave of the Stanford win, but people are nervous about how healthy (or not) Wilson is. Gotta love the knee-jerk reactions of fans!
UC: This is a tough one. To be honest, I haven’t seen USC play a whole lot. I’ll go 20-17 Trojans.