No. 4 USC’s CFP hopes dashed with Pac-12 title sport thrashing

LAS VEGAS — The best way these items work is that few folks will keep in mind the moments when USC quarterback Caleb Williams dazzled a sellout crowd within the first quarter, when he sliced by means of defenders for a 59-yard run or when he flipped a pair of straightforward touchdowns by manipulating his opponents with the quarterback equal for sleight of hand.

What the nationwide viewers will keep in mind — a gaggle made up of Heisman Trophy voters, the School Soccer Playoff choice committee and NFL executives — is how his workforce was outscored 44-7 after constructing a 17-3 lead. It is going to keep in mind the way in which he crumbled within the second and third quarters when his completion proportion shriveled, and a corrosive fourth quarter speckled with sacks, inaccuracies and one season-altering interception.

It is going to additionally keep in mind the protection — that inexplicably inept USC protection — for a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns that defied tackling logic. The 60-yard landing from Utah quarterback Cam Rising to tight finish Thomas Yassmin that ended with the bowling over of security Calen Bullock. The 53-yard landing run by tailback Ja’Quinden Jackson that ended with the bowling over of Bullock for the second time in as many possessions to safe the college’s second consecutive Pac-12 title.  

This 47-24 thrashing belonged to the Utes and minimize brief an unbelievable USC run towards the nationwide semifinals.

Some ideas from Allegiant Stadium:   

Dropping his grip

It was arduous to see issues ending like this for Williams, the presumptive Heisman Trophy favourite, given how flawlessly he performed the final month of the season and the way otherworldly his statistics have been within the first sport between these groups. Williams accomplished 25 of 42 passes for 381 yards and 5 touchdowns in a heart-stopping 43-42 defeat at Rice-Eccles Stadium. All he’d achieved since then was common 348.2 yards per sport and win 5 consecutive video games to propel the Trojans to the doorstep of the CFP.

And Friday’s rematch started just like the coronation many anticipated. Williams, whose fingernails have been painted with letters spelling “F— Utah”, accomplished eight of his first 9 passes for 108 yards and two scores. He broke three tackles on a jaw-dropping 59-yard scramble that showcased why gained extra speeding yards than any USC quarterback since stats have been first collected 70 years in the past. His and Riley’s offense scored 17 factors on their first three possessions in what felt like a possible rout.

The Utes would have none of it. Led by their defensive-minded head coach, Kyle Whittingham, they started swarming Williams with waves of stress that capsized the Trojans.

Williams’ completion proportion dropped from 88.9% within the first quarter to 50% within the second and 33% within the third. He went greater than half-hour of sport time with out throwing a landing as high-powered USC, which entered the sport second within the nation with a 55.3% conversion charge on third down, failed to maneuver the chains on its first eight such makes an attempt.

Sure, Williams completed with 363 passing yards and three touchdowns, however Whittingham’s protection hobbled him by means of a mixture of 5 sacks and three extra quarterback hits. A limp turned extra pronounced as the sport continued and peaked following a backbreaking interception when Williams tried to power a gap shot between the cornerback and security in what gave the impression to be Cowl-2. Utah’s R.J. Hubert stepped in entrance of tight finish Lake McRee for the choose with 6:57 remaining and a 10-point lead.

For a lot of Heisman voters, that is perhaps their lasting picture of Williams on his largest stage this season. 

It is all Cash for Utah

It's all Money for Utah

Utah’s Cameron Rising finds Cash Parks for the 57-yard landing in opposition to USC on Friday evening.

Enjoying with hearth

Because the season progressed, this yr’s Trojans turned an enchanting case examine for a way a lot defensive waste a high-powered offense can overcome. Riley’s workforce arrived in Las Vegas with an offense ranked third nationally in scoring, sixth in passing yards per sport and fifth in complete offense, thanks largely to Williams, the devilish dervish whose numbers have been so eye-popping that he started to lap the Heisman Trophy discipline all through November. The one two video games during which USC failed to achieve 35 factors have been a 17-14 win over Oregon State and a 30-14 win over Washington State.

However Williams’ dual-threat greatness proved as mandatory because it was interesting when, week after week, he dragged a cardinal and gold anchor loosely outlined as USC’s protection. The Trojans resembled a home divided with Riley’s offense paying the payments and defensive coordinator Alex Grinch, who adopted his boss from Oklahoma, overseeing the freeloaders on the lounge sofa. A bunch that ranked 91st in complete protection was mediocre in opposition to the run (142.4 yards per sport) and ghastly in opposition to the go (262.8 yards per sport) with however a single redeeming high quality: an uncanny means to power turnovers that saved the Trojans afloat.

They paired a three-and-out on Utah’s second possession with a compelled fumble on the third to achieve the halfway level of the second quarter having solely conceded a discipline objective, by which level Williams architected a trio of scoring drives to construct a 17-3 lead. And that’s when Grinch’s protection regressed — nay, free fell — to the imply.  

Utah reached the tip zone on three of its subsequent 4 possessions to reel off 21 unanswered factors that defied the Trojans in numerous methods. There was an 11-play, 63-yard march during which Rising transformed a crucial fourth and two by faking a toss to his halfback and surging ahead to maneuver the chains within the crimson zone. There was a 14-play, 81-yard march late within the second quarter that might function educating tape for methods to run a two-minute offense, with Rising discovering his large tight finish, Dalton Kincaid, thrice for 33 yards. There was a three-play, 48-yard lightning strike during which two USC defenders collided as wideout Cash Parks turned a easy slant right into a 57-yard rating that gave the Utes a 24-17 lead.  

The zone protection wasn’t sound sufficient, the person protection wasn’t sticky sufficient and the tackling appeared optionally available because the Trojans started to unravel. 

Caleb Williams tosses interception, Utah ices sport

Caleb Williams tosses interception, Utah ices game

Caleb Williams was intercepted by R.J. Hubert, then Ja’Quinden Jackson ran 53 yards for a clinching landing.

Welcome again, Buckeyes

Oh, to be a fly on the wall Sunday morning because the CFP choice committee finalizes this yr’s four-team discipline. The penultimate rankings coming into convention championship weekend positioned Georgia, Michigan, Texas Christian and USC atop the pack in that order, with the Bulldogs and Wolverines all however assured of entry even when they stumble within the SEC title sport and Large Ten title sport, respectively. Lurking within the shadows have been a pair of CFP stalwarts in fifth-ranked Ohio State and sixth-ranked Alabama — two groups whose résumé crystalized of their common season finales.  

By dropping the Buckeyes from second to fifth following the lopsided loss to Michigan final week, the committee handed USC the only of equations: Avenge a one-point October loss to Utah within the convention title sport and advance to the nationwide semifinals as Pac-12 champions. The Trojans had already loved this system’s finest begin to a season in 14 years, similar to Riley had already tied Howard Jones in 1925 and John Robinson in 1976 for essentially the most victories by a USC head coach in his debut season. That Riley guided his new workforce to the brink of this yr’s CFP spoke to how rapidly he invigorated a program that was treading water.  

However the inverse of the committee’s equation was equally clear: Any slip by the Trojans can be sufficient for the one-loss Buckeyes to leapfrog them for the ultimate spot. Legions of scarlet and grey followers nonetheless wounded from final week’s waxing at Ohio Stadium have been dwelling vicariously by means of Utah. And when the Utes scored a trio of touchdowns within the closing 10 minutes, the roars you heard got here from Salt Lake Metropolis and Columbus.  

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Michael Cohen covers school soccer and basketball for FOX Sports activities with an emphasis on the Large Ten. Observe him on Twitter at @Michael_Cohen13.


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