A lot will be on the line for the unranked Trojans this Saturday, when they host No. 3-ranked Utah in a game with tremendous Pac-12 South implications.Daily Trojan sports editor Darian Nourian sat down with Utah’s Daily Utah Chronicle football beat reporter, Kim Brenneisen, to give Trojan fans a better picture of what to expect from this Utes squad on Saturday.Daily Trojan: What has been the main reason for Utah’s success this season?Daily Utah Chronicle: It’s really been a complete team effort from the Utes, but it’s really the leadership of the seniors that is pulling the team. There are plenty of guys on the team competing in their final season as a Ute, so they have something to prove before year’s end. The defense, though they have not been registering as many sacks as last season, is more than making up for it in interceptions. They are not dropping balls like they have in the past and the overall intensity has increased. The offense has more of a balanced attack this year, and Utah is no longer dependent on the run game. Special teams is also doing pretty well, and Tom Hackett continues to punt balls within the other team’s 20-yard line.DT : Is this Utah team overrated or is it a true national championship contender?DUC : They are definitely not overrated, and even with Utah’s No. 3 ranking, analysts have them losing this game, which only motivates this team. The Utes feel like they have been the underdog for such a long time, and still feel like that, but in a more positive light than before. Being around the players, they’re confident, but not cocky. They are relaxed, but not lazy. The Utes are clicking on all cylinders, like I said before, and it certainly helps that the majority of teams in the Pac-12 are not having their best seasons.DT : What does Utah need to work on leading up to the USC game?DUC : Special teams without a doubt. Even though I said this is a big reason why they are playing well, it could have very well been the reason they almost lost to ASU this past weekend. They allowed a kickoff return for a touchdown and, later in the game, allowed another big gain off of a punt return. Then, most ugly of all, they had a botched trick play in which Britain Covey was flagged for an illegal forward pass in the end zone that resulted in not just a safety, but also a field goal. Whittingham called the special teams play horrible and Covey called it stupid. They certainly won’t be doing this again and will make sure to get their act together before heading on the road.DT : Who on USC will give the Utes trouble?DUC : The Utes are actually concerned with the entire wide receiving unit for USC, but more specifically, JuJu Smith-Schuster. Whittingham mentioned his name earlier this week and knows his secondary will need be aware of where he is on the field at all times. The Utes have yet to face someone of his caliber so it will be a real test to see if they can cover him. Smith-Schuster is a savvy wide receiver, and playmaker in general, so Utah will need to be sure to not give him any space.DT : Who will the Trojans need to keep their eyes on?DUC : Devontae Booker is always ready to go, and after not having an ideal three quarters last weekend, he’ll definitely want to make it up for it. Although he did not get much going throughout most of the game, he still finished with two rushing touchdowns — one of which essentially secured the Utes’ victory — and finished with 118 yards on the ground. Booker wants that Heisman and, more importantly, his teammates want it for him. They’ll do whatever it takes to get the run back on track and even if it doesn’t, he can be effective otherwise. He did a nice job picking up blocks for Wilson when he needed it and he’s also a threat catching the ball so he will keep the Trojans on their toes throughout the whole game.DT : If Utah wins, what will be the main reason why?DUC : Utah will win the game if two out of its three units are in sync but, most importantly, the offense. This team has been doing a good job of scoring lately, and USC surely can, too. Wilson will need to play with as much confidence as he has been doing so all season long. Also, he finally needs to hit a deep shot. Last game he attempted to throw a couple long ones and both times overthrew his receiver. Other than that, the receivers have been doing a good job of getting open and will need to continue to do the same against the Trojans. Then, Booker essentially just needs to do Booker-like things, creating more space and fighting for extra yards whenever he can.DT : What does a win in this game mean for the Utah program and would it solifify the Utes as a new Pac-12 powerhouse?DUC : A win validates this team even more. USC is one of the most storied college football programs, and plenty of people still have their doubts. For instance, the Utes are ranked No. 7 in the Coaches Poll — for some reason Michigan State is ranked above them even though Utah had more decisive wins against Oregon and Michigan. People overlook Utah a lot, and then, when the Utes do make any sort of noise, people are quick to assume they are not really what they seem and that they are overrated. A win against a program like USC, on the road, depicts them in a better light, but at the same time, some won’t value it because of USC’s record; so essentially, a win just keeps them in the conversation. A loss would completely deter the Utes’ chances of making the playoffs and would only verify some people’s thoughts that they aren’t good enough. A win does make the Utes a powerhouse in the Pac-12, but only for the time being. Utah will need to continue winning, and winning decisively, to be considered a true favorite.DT : Who do you think will win and why?DUC : I think Utah pulls out a close win in a high scoring affair, 42-39. The Utes still have a lot to prove to the entire country and will be more focused than ever to win in the Coliseum. Any loss at this point is a bad loss, and the Utes will win because they need to. They need to prove to everyone that their season is not a fluke and, in the end, they will because every single player knows what is at stake against the Trojans.
Former elite sides push for a return to the Premier League from the various Zones as the Play-Offs for Premier League promotion begins this weekend. Great Olympics, Tema Youth and Okwawu United are all aiming for a return to the top-flight but also face competition from Istanbul when they kick off their quest to seal a return to the premiership next season from Zone III. The competition in Zone III begins on Saturday at the Baba Yara and Len Clay stadia. The competition starts much earlier for teams in Zone II where Dunkwa United, Gold Stars, Feyenoord and Eleven Wise all push for the sole qualifying slot. On Friday,Dunkwa United and Gold Stars will get the action underway before former premiership sides Feyenoord and Eleven Wise meet on Saturday. The winner of each zone qualifies for next season’s Premier League. Zone II Fixtures Match-day-1: Friday, April 25: Dunkwa v Gold Stars – Accra Saturday, April 26: Feyenoord v Eleven Wise – TemaMatch-day-2: Tuesday, April 29 Eleven Wise v Dunkwa – Accra Gold Stars v Feyenoord – Tema Match-day-3: Saturday May 3 Dunkwa v Feyenoord – Accra Eleven Wise v Gold Stars – Tema Zone III Fixtures Match-day-1: Saturday, April 26 Great Olympics v Istanbul – Baba Yara Tema Youth v Okwawu – Len ClayMatch-day-2: Tuesday, April 29 Istanbul v Tema Youth – Baba Yara Okwawu v Great Olympics – Len ClayMatch-day-3: Saturday May 3 Great Olympics v Tema Youth – Baba Yara Okwawu v Istanbul – Len Clay