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Five Things We Learned From Utah's Loss To USC

Author:
Travis Wilson

Travis Wilson

Utah's bid for a perfect season came crashing down amid a flurry of turnovers. Senior quarterback Travis Wilson was intercepted four times in the Utes' 42-24 loss to unranked USC on Saturday. For now, Utah retains a one-game lead in the Pac-12 South standings, but the loss does raise some questions about whether or not the Utes can ultimately win the division.

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Related: Utah Utes 2015 Midseason Review and Second Half Preview

Things certainly do not get much easier for Utah heading down the stretch. Oregon State is not expected to offer much resistance to the Utes this week, but the rest of the schedule offers enough tough games to threaten Utah's push to reach the Pac-12 championship game.

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The loss to USC revealed five things about the Utes:

1. Jared Norris is the defensive heart and soul

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Players like Gionni Paul and Marcus Williams might draw attention for making big plays, but Norris is the engine that drives Utah's defense. The senior linebacker did not play against the Trojans and the Utes clearly felt his absence. Utah struggled to get enough pressure up front to disrupt Trojans quarterback Cody Kessler's rhythm and slow down USC's running backs without Norris using his instincts to help everyone get in the right places to make plays.

2. Wilson needs to develop better offensive consistency

There's no question Wilson is a talented quarterback. You don't become a four-year starter by accident. The problem is that Wilson also is mistake-prone and a game can get out of hand quickly for him. He was on fire in the first quarter, completing all nine passes he attempted and throwing for 69 yards and a touchdown. Once Wilson threw his first interception in the second quarter, everything unraveled. He finished with 254 yards and two touchdowns on 24-of-35 passing, but his four interceptions led to 21 points for the Trojans.

3. Britain Covey will be tough to replace after 2015

Utah's offense isn't going to be the same the next two years once Covey departs for his LDS mission. The freshman slot receiver and punt returner is one of the most dynamic playmakers in the Pac-12 Conference. Covey kept the blowout loss in Los Angeles from getting even worse for the Utes. He had a season-high 129 receiving yards and two touchdowns on seven catches. Covey also set up Utah's other touchdown with a 40-yard punt return.

4. Utah's run game is stuck in neutral

For the second consecutive game, Utah struggled to generate yardage on the ground. The Utes totaled 99 net yards and one touchdown on 28 carries against USC. Two weeks ago, Utah accumulated just 72 net yards and two touchdowns on 31 carries. This is not a good sign for a team with an offense geared toward Devontae Booker moving the chains. It must change quickly or Utah's 6-0 start could become a distant memory in a hurry.

5. Utah faces a steep road to securing a College Football Playoff spot

The Utes did not need to go undefeated to lock down one of the four College Football Playoff spots. But their margin for error is probably gone. Utah will likely need to run the table the rest of the way to get consideration from the selection committee. The Utes still have a strong Playoff resume, but can't afford a second loss with several undefeated and one-loss teams still in the mix.

— Written by John Coon, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Coon has more than a decade of experience covering sports for different publications and outlets, including The Associated Press, Salt Lake Tribune, ESPN, Deseret News, MaxPreps, Yahoo! Sports and many others. Follow him on Twitter @johncoonsports.