Dane Miller’s 2022 Pac-12 Championship Game Preview

The Trojans had their doubters, but the Utes were expected by many to get back to Las Vegas

Posted on December 1, 2022

  By Dane Miller, SuperWest Sports

In some ways, the matchup between Utah and USC in the Pac-12 Championship Game coincides with both programs’ preseason expectations.

The Trojans had their share of doubters, but the Utes were expected by many to get back to Las Vegas.

The path Kyle Whittingham’s took to get here was a surprise, though, and there probably isn’t anyone in the Utah program that would say this year has met their goals.

Still, the game is set, Playoff hopes are on the line, and Whittingham’s team can play the role of spoiler.

I preview the matchup here and the picks of our senior writers and broadcasters appear at the bottom.

No. 11 Utah v. No. 4 USC

Friday, December 2
5:00 pm PT, Fox

Looking for revenge and a trip to the College Football Playoff, USC must contain Cam Rising.

The Utah quarterback scored five touchdowns in the first matchup, averaging 5.5 yards per carry and scoring three times on the ground. His mobility has since decreased due to an injury, but with another legacy game on the line, Rising will do what needs to be done.

Bringing pressure figures to be part of Alex Grinch’s defensive game plan. The Utes threw the ball 45 times in Salt Lake City, yet not one of those passes resulted in an interception. That can’t happen again in Vegas if USC is going to get to the Playoff.

Cam Rising looks to win the Pac-12 Championship for the second year in a row | David Zalubowski/AP

The traditional Utah run game was well defended the first time around, though, as Grinch’s group limited the UU running backs to a combined 65 yards rushing. Some of that may have been attributable to Utah playing from behind, but it must give the Trojan defense some confidence heading into the game.

If the SC “D” once again frustrates the Utes’ traditional ground game, the determining factor probably comes down to their ability to prevent quarterback runs. Rising is a master at extending plays with his legs and getting pivotal yards on the ground during broken plays.

The willingness to run and decision-making on the move is what brought Utah to a Rose Bowl last year and returned them to Allegiant Stadium this season.

If Grinch’s unit prevents Rising from scrambling for extra yards, the game should be USC’s to win.

On the other side of the ball, Caleb Williams figures to once again prove why he is the Heisman favorite. Lincoln Riley’s offense put up 42 points at Rice-Eccles Stadium and has the capability of scoring even more on a neutral field.

Caleb Williams looks to lead his team to the CFP | Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times

Using creative plays designed to get receivers into open space, the offense figures to hit on all cylinders. Running back Austin Jones’ contribution could be vital, too, as the senior has excelled in his expanded role.

Turnovers could change the game, but the Trojan offense has only committed four this season and is No. 1 in the nation in turnovers lost. Combined with a coaching staff that knows what it takes to get to the Playoff, the stars appear to be aligned for a USC victory.

With so much on the line, the game promises to be historic and legacies will be forged.

Could we ask for anything better?

Game Picks from our Senior Writers and Broadcasters

—More from Dane Miller—