Trojans suffer heartbreaking loss to Utah, face Cal on Saturday

No longer is USC's offense, led by Caleb Williams able to stave off having an execrable defense. For the third time in two years, the Utah Utes defeated the Southern California Trojans, this time 34-32, at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in front of 61,551 fans last Saturday night.

The Trojans, bathed in the bright lights of the Coliseum, were supposed to win games like this. It was a Pac-12 home showdown against the reigning conference champions, a shot at redemption after last season's painful defeats. The opportunity that stood in front of the Trojans was nothing short of monumental.

The loss leaves a bitter taste, almost as sour as a second consecutive defeat that erases the national championship dreams and dims the glimmer of a conference title. History reminds us that no team has advanced to the College Football Playoff semifinals with two losses. It's a hard pill to swallow, and the road to a conference championship is laden with obstacles.

Riley's post-game words painted a vivid picture. He spoke of gut-wrenching defeat. In these moments, a coach's mettle is tested, as he noted, but the results so far don't look good right now. "If our fight stays like it would be tonight, we'll have a shot obviously against anybody." Riley said.

Start with the floundering defense. Riley insists on standing by his defensive coordinator Alex Grinch, but the defense remains a puzzle. A Utah offense, led by a third-string quarterback, breezed down the field, fueled by mistakes like the reckless targeting penalty that resulted in Bear Alexander's ejection. The Trojans' defense is still struggling, despite Riley's insistence to the contrary.

The offensive quandary is equally baffling during the last two games. Heisman-winning quarterback Williams is struggling, absorbing sack after sack and making ill-advised throws. Riley's refusal to stick to a successful running game only adds to offensive problems. MarShawn Lloyd's brilliant 45-yard run in the first quarter was a fleeting moment of hope. Yet, he touched the ball only seven times in the entire game.

College football teams all over the nation have great players and teams that play outstanding football on any given game day so losing football games is not shocking unless you are Georgia, Ohio State or Michigan. Right now, USC is not in that class of elite teams right now. The Trojans are 6-2 overall and 4-1 in the Pac-12. The Pac-12 record is good enough for second place in the conference and they are ranked 24th in the country.

The Trojans prepare for the Cal Bears on Saturday at 1 p.m. in Berkeley and the promise of victory is there, but not without daunting challenges on the horizon. Washington, Oregon and UCLA, teams that are ranked higher nationally, are waiting for the Trojans in the next few weeks.

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