LOS ANGELES (AP) — Between NCAA sanctions and a dismaying spate of injuries, Southern California is struggling just to field a team for the second half of the season.
Utah is mostly worried about one injury to quarterback Travis Wilson, but he's determined to take on the Trojans on Saturday.
USC (4-3, 1-2 Pac-12) is nearly out of healthy players at several positions with six games left under interim coach Ed Orgeron. Receivers Marqise Lee and Nelson Agholor, the Trojans' three best tight ends and starting linebackers Morgan Breslin and Lamar Dawson are all unlikely to play or contribute much against the Utes (4-3, 1-3) — and that's just the top of the injury list.
"Injuries are going to happen," Orgeron said. "We want to continue to be physical. We just have to be smart."
While USC scrounges for competent players, the Utes are hoping Wilson's sprained finger allows him to play effectively at the Coliseum, where Utah hasn't won since 1916.
The sophomore from San Clemente says he'll be ready for the Trojans' injury-riddled defense as Utah attempts to bounce back from last week's loss at Arizona.
USC took its first loss under Orgeron last week, falling 14-10 at Notre Dame in a penalty-plagued game featuring a scoreless second half. The Trojans hope a return home will focus their offense, but improvement will be tough with injuries at nearly every position — except quarterback, where Cody Kessler remains optimistic USC can keep winning.
But Kessler is also realistic about the Trojans' options without Lee and Agholor, who might try to play even though they barely practiced this week. The quarterback spent time after practice this week working with the Trojans' walk-on receivers.
"They're going to have to play," he said.
Here are five reasons to watch the rematch of the first Pac-12 game ever played two years ago:
NO BODIES: After using just 48 scholarship players at Notre Dame, USC struggled just to practice this week in the absence of a huge chunk of its roster. Two straight seasons of scholarship restrictions — and one more to come — have depleted the Trojans' depth, although fired coach Lane Kiffin didn't make it any easier when he signed fewer players than his limit last winter, hoping to cash in next year. If the Utes want to exploit the Trojans' thin roster, they'll load up against tailback Silas Redd and dare Kessler to beat them downfield with his motley collection of backup receivers.
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