Takeaways: Caleb Williams, USC set for revenge rematch with Utah

Two hours earlier than the Pac-12 championship matchup could be settled, Eric Gentry thought-about his choices fastidiously when requested of whether or not he needed a rematch in opposition to the workforce that spoiled USC’s good season.

After a two-second pause, the center linebacker smiled large.

“Happy to be in the Pac-12 championship,” Gentry mentioned with a toothy grin after USC’s 38-27 win over No. 15 Notre Dame on Saturday on the Coliseum.

Friday’s Pac-12 championship sport will embrace an opportunity for revenge for the Trojans, who can avenge their Oct. 15 loss to Utah (9-3, 7-2). The Utes received simply sufficient assist to again into the title sport regardless of dropping to Oregon two weeks in the past, incomes their spot in Las Vegas Saturday with a win over Colorado, Washington’s victory over Washington State and Oregon‘s loss to Oregon State.

Not only can the No. 6 Trojans (11-1, 8-1 Pac-12) win their first conference title since 2017, they could potentially seal their spot in the College Football Playoff semifinals with a victory. With No. 2 Ohio State and No. 5 LSU losing on Saturday, the path seems clear for a one-loss Pac-12 champion to finally end the conference’s playoff drought.

If USC can prime its resume with a Pac-12 championship win over No. 14 Utah, the Trojans can have three consecutive ranked wins for the committee’s consideration and a highway victory in opposition to No. 21 Oregon State.

USC enters championship with momentum from a win over Notre Dame Saturday night time. Listed below are three takeaways from the sport:

Prepared for the highlight

USC operating again Austin Jones finds operating room in opposition to Notre Dame within the first half on the Coliseum Satuday.

(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Instances)

Whereas Caleb Williams stole the present with 4 touchdowns, a Heisman pose and an imaginary crown ceremony, operating again Austin Jones’ contributions helped outline the sport.

The Stanford switch rushed for a career-high 154 yards on 25 carries, serving to USC roll up 204 yards on the bottom. Jones has rushed for season highs in back-to-back weeks since Travis Dye’s season-ending damage.

Seeing their main rusher get carted off the sphere might have forged a pall over the workforce for weeks. As an alternative, Jones stepped up effortlessly.

“I love this game, I love this team and no matter what, I told them at the beginning of the season, I’m going to give it everything I got no matter what I gotta do,” Jones mentioned. “Whether it’s a major role or not as a major role, it doesn’t matter to me.”

Jones totaled simply 65 dashing yards within the 5 video games previous to Dye’s damage. He light into the background, partially, due to inconsistent cross safety, however seeing him shine because the main again has come as no shock to the Trojans.

“Travis and Austin were 1A and 1B,” USC coach Lincoln Riley mentioned. “We’re very fortunate to have some really good backs in there and Austin stepped up. He ran physical tonight. You talk about establishing the run game. That, to me, was the game.”

Run sport battle

USC linebacker Clyde Moore reacts after a defensive stop against Notre Dame at the Coliseum

USC linebacker Clyde Moore (35) reacts after a defensive cease in opposition to Notre Dame on the Coliseum Saturday.

(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Instances)

He’s recognized for high-octane offenses, electrical quarterbacks and dynamic receivers. However don’t accuse Riley of teaching an all-finesse workforce.

Whereas Notre Dame’s offense carried a status for physicality, it was the Trojans who received within the trenches. USC held the Irish to 90 dashing yards on 26 carries. It was Notre Dame’s third sport underneath 100 dashing yards this season after getting into the sport with a 191.2-yard common.

“Notre Dame traditionally is a physical, pounding type of team and Coach Riley was just like, ‘Hey man, we’re that team,’” Jones mentioned. “We have to embrace that as well. We have to go out there and show everybody who we actually are. We’re not just a team that’s all about the flash, glitz and glamour, we really get in the trenches and really work.”

USC notched its fourth sport of at the very least 200 dashing yards this season. Riley mentioned he was “sick and tired of hearing how we were going to get pounded in the run game.”

“That didn’t happen,” he added defiantly.

Welcome again

USC linebacker Eric Gentry reacts on the sidelines in Salt Lake City after getting injured.

USC linebacker Eric Gentry reacts on the sidelines in Salt Lake Metropolis on Oct. 15 after getting injured. After recovering, he’s set to face the Utes once more within the Pac-12 championship sport.

(Rick Bowmer / Related Press)

Six weeks in the past, Gentry might solely hop into the USC huddle on one leg, helpless as its protection was drubbed by Utah.

It appeared on the time like a important blow to a protection determined for playmakers. However by the point Gentry made his return from damage Saturday, USC was getting ready to the Faculty Soccer Playoff semifinals — and its protection was an enormous purpose why.

“It’s a big difference,” defensive finish Tuli Tuipulotu mentioned of Gentry’s return. “EG is just a great player, y’all know that already.”

When he first injured his ankle in October, it wasn’t instantly clear to Gentry he’d be again this season.

“I felt it click, so I thought it was something different,” Gentry mentioned. “But it was OK, I’m happy to be back helping the team as much as I can.”

Gentry’s return performed a component in that resurgence in opposition to Notre Dame, as the within linebacker led USC in tackles (9) and compelled a fumble.

“I could be anywhere, but I’m in L.A., playing in the Coliseum,” Gentry mentioned. “I wouldn’t want to be nowhere else so I’m happy to just be here.”