SALT LAKE CITY — Norm Chow knows exactly what Utah is getting into Saturday at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The Utes' new offensive coordinator called the plays for USC from 2001-04 and visited the stadium with UCLA in 2009.
"It's a fun venue to play in. It's big time," Chow said. "I'm excited for our players and looking forward to going down there with them, being together and trying to get this thing done."
Prevailing in the designated National Historic Landmark won't be easy. The Trojans are 405-128-27 overall at the 93,607-seat stadium, a place they've called home since 1923.
"It's going to be a tough road trip going down to the Coliseum," said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. "It's a great venue with one of the most storied programs in all of college football."
A perfect background, perhaps, for a historically significant meeting. Saturday's contest between Utah and USC will be the expanded Pac-12's inaugural football game.
The associated pomp and circumstance, however, isn't what the Utes are focusing on. They've got plenty of other things to focus on, not the least of which is defending quarterback Matt Barkley and wide receiver Robert Woods. The USC duo teamed for three touchdowns last week while both players went on to break school records. Barkley completed 34 passes and Woods made 17 receptions in the Trojans' 19-17 win over Minnesota.
The numbers, particularly those by Woods, are cause for concern.
"He's the complete package as a wide receiver," Whittingham said. "He's a great weapon for them and if he catches 17 against us, I don't like our chances. I don't think anyone can take him out of a game, but we can't let him go off like he did Saturday."
Utah linebacker Brian Blechen acknowledged it would be frustrating to let Woods have another great game.
"He'll just wear us down if we do that," Blechen said. "We've got to try and stop him early."
Controlling Barkley will also be a challenge. Blechen noted that the junior has control of the offense, along with a strong arm and quick release.
Utah defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake, however, said the Utes won't make any wholesale changes on defense — even with senior tailback Marc Tyler returning from a one-game suspension.
"We run our defense. We don't change," Sitake said while noting that Woods is a great talent, but the other players can't be disregarded.
The defense, he explained, has got to handle USC's run game and manage its passing attack.
Thus, it's not all about stopping Woods.
"They're USC," said Utah safeties coach Morgan Scalley. "They've got plenty of guys you've got to shut down. It's not just one guy."
Woods, though, is really good.
"So if you don't have great coverage on him, if you don't try to take some things away, he's going to get his catches," Scalley said.
Defending Barkley will provide a test as well. His ability to get the ball out of his hands quickly is enhanced by arm strength and accuracy.
"Those are the two most concerning things for us," Whittingham said. "We need to figure out how to put pressure on a guy who gets the ball out so quickly and defending all of the throws he can make."
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