The No. 11 Utah Utes swept their doubleheader with No. 4 USC and then some with a 47-24 victory in the Pac-12 title game on Friday night in Las Vegas.
Utah (10-3) is the only team to beat USC (11-2) and did it twice, ruining the Trojans’ plans to reach the College Football Playoff for the first time. The spoilers from Utah previously defeated USC, 43-42, on Oct. 15 in Salt Lake City.
USC’s loss is expected to move No. 5 Ohio State (11-1) into the No. 4 position when the final CFP rankings before the playoffs come out Sunday (Noon, ESPN). Ohio State’s only loss is to No. 2 Michigan (12-0) last week when Michigan was No. 3, but it was a lopsided one by 45-23. The Buckeyes do not play again until the postseason – in the CFP or in a bowl.
Alabama (10-2) is ranked No. 6, but is not expected to leapfrog Ohio State.
“They call us the Trojan killers, so I guess it’s true,” said Utah quarterback Cameron Rising, a native of the Los Angeles area who completed 22 of 34 passes for 310 yards and three touchdowns. “Everybody had them picked.”
Utah Quarterback Cameron Rising Riddled Trojans
Rising threw a 57-yard touchdown to wide receiver Money Parks for a 24-17 lead with 10:33 to go in the third quarter after a 17-17 tie at the half. Rising threw a 60-yard touchdown to tight end Thomas Yassmin for a 34-24 lead with 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter.
It was Rising who killed the Trojans the first time this season as well. His two-point conversion run with 48 seconds left was the difference in that game.
“It’s hard to believe, but there’s no doubting that group of guys,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. “We definitely got the message loud and clear that a lot of people were underestimating us and not giving us much of a chance in this game. And that’s the wrong group of players to do that to. Shook up a little bit of a hornets’ nest.”
Utah is off to the Rose Bowl possibly to play No. 8 Penn State (10-2).
Michigan plays unranked Purdue (8-4) in the Big Ten championship game Saturday night (8 p.m., FOX). No. 1 Georgia (12-0) plays No. 14 LSU (9-3) in the SEC championship game on Saturday (4 p.m., CBS). And No. 3 TCU (12-0) plays No. 12 Kansas State (9-3) in the Big 12 title game on Saturday (Noon, ABC). A TCU loss possibly could get Alabama in the playoff.
USC Appeared To Be On Its Way Early
USC took a 17-3 lead early in the second quarter, but Utah scored 24 unanswered points to take a 27-17 lead in the third quarter. And it was over as USC quarterback Caleb Williams was a shell of himself with a left hamstring injury suffered early in the game.
Williams moved like an elderly man throughout the game and was not his dual-threat self. He still completed 28 of 41 passes for 363 yeards and three touchdowns with an interception. He rushed for just 21 yards on 12 carries, though, and may have seen his Heisman Trophy hopes disappear along with the playoffs.
“We’re not going to walk around like this is some funeral,” first-year USC coach Lincoln Riley said with Williams at his side looking like he was at a funeral. “We’ve made some great progress to be in this moment. We expected to win tonight, and we didn’t get it done. We’ll find out where the next one is and get ready to go.”
Whittingham said before the game that people saying USC had already reached the playoff and that Williams had already won the Heisman motivated his team.
“Cameron Rising played outstanding,” Whittingham said. “He’s an alpha dog. He was on it tonight.”