May 24, 2024

Behind closed gates and high walls, everything looks great for USC. Emboldened by their first loss of the year, the Trojans returned to the practice field with “a little more edge,” offensive lineman Jonah Monheim said, “a little more fire.”

But Monheim knows just being the team that practices well when no one is around to see it won’t make noise on game day.

“When the results aren’t there, it doesn’t really matter how [practice] went,” the redshirt junior said. “You gotta change it, you gotta attack it harder, do it better, dig deeper.”

After weeks of declining game-day performances culminated in an embarrassing loss to rival Notre Dame, No. 18 USC (6-1, 4-0 Pac-12) will try to steady its season against No. 14 Utah.

In retrospect, the Trojans were “maybe asleep at the wheel a little bit” during preparation for Arizona, coach Lincoln Riley said Thursday. They needed triple overtime to survive in the Coliseum. But after a strong week of practice, USC flopped against Notre Dame.

Pushing into the second half of the season, there aren’t many wholesale changes that can be done to the practices, Riley acknowledged. But the Trojans have created more opportunities for “competitive work” amid a difficult schedule that has three ranked opponents and a crosstown rivalry game in the next five weeks.

“We’ve got to carry over what we’re doing on the practice field and go turn it loose and go cut it loose and just play,” Riley said. “That I think is a bigger issue for us right now than maybe the preparation.”

Here are five things to watch in USC’s game against the Utes (5-1, 2-1 Pac-12) at the Coliseum on Saturday at 5 p.m. PDT (Fox):

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