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#20 USC at #19 Utah
Jordan Garretson, STATS Writer
(AP) -- USC used a record-breaking passing performance to steamroll its way to another victory last week.

The No. 20 Trojans may need Cody Kessler to step up again with star tailback Javorius Allen up against the stout run defense of 19th-ranked Utah on Saturday night in Salt Lake City.

The Trojans (5-2, 4-1 Pac-12) sit atop the Pac-12 South, though four of the division's other five teams are also ranked and three have only one loss.

The Utes (5-1, 2-1) are among them following road victories over then-No. 8 UCLA and Oregon State.

USC is looking for a second road win over a ranked team in three weeks after beating then-No. 10 Arizona on Oct. 11 behind Allen's 205 rushing yards and three touchdowns. He ran for another 128 yards and a score last Saturday, but it was Kessler who was the star as he broke Matt Barkley's school record with seven TD passes in a 56-28 home win over Colorado.

Kessler, who finished 17 of 24 for 318 yards, had only three TD passes over the previous three games.

"We coach this guy harder than any other guy on our team, and he accepts it, and he comes to work every day with the mindset to get better," coach Steve Sarkisian said of Kessler, the Pac-12 player of the week.

Nelson Agholor caught three of his scores, finishing with six catches for 128 yards. Agholor leads the team with 533 yards and seven TDs on 48 receptions.

Sarkisian hopes the passing attack can continue to excel and lessen the burden on Allen and the ground game. The junior's 150 rushing attempts are 10th-most in the FBS even though he matched a season low with 15 last week. He ranks 11th with 129.9 rushing yards per game and is the first Trojan with six 100-yard games in a season since Reggie Bush and LenDale White in 2005.

"When you are a team that believes in running the football, you have to make defenses pay for loading the box, you have to have the ability to throw the ball down the field," Sarkisian said. "When you have those two things going for you, then life is good."

The Trojans have run for at least 200 yards in four consecutive games for the first time since Sept. 17-Oct. 8, 2005. They've averaged 6.3 per carry in the past two weeks.

They face a stiff challenge in Utah, which boasts the conference's second-best rush defense at 114.2 yards per game. The Utes have surrendered only three rushing TDs and limit teams to 2.8 yards per carry, which ranks sixth nationally.

Kessler's work figures to be difficult, too. Utah's 33 sacks lead the nation and it has picked off seven passes in the last four games.

The Utes improved upon their best start since opening 8-0 in 2010 with a 29-23 double-overtime win over the Beavers last Thursday night. Devontae Booker ran for 229 yards and three TDs, including the game-winner on a 19-yard scamper. Booker's 123.7 rushing yards per game trail only Allen in the Pac-12.

"Allen is a terrific back," coach Kyle Whittingham said. "We've got our own back that we're very high on, so that will be an intriguing matchup."

Whittingham has some uncertainty under center. Kendall Thompson made his first start of the season last week after Whittingham declined to declare a starter entering the contest. Thompson was 4 of 8 for 17 yards and an interception, while Travis Wilson - who had started the first five games - was 5 of 10 for 45 yards.

Wilson is listed as the starter this week. Regardless of who takes the snaps, Utah's passing offense could use a spark - it ranks second-to-last in the Pac-12 with 191.8 yards per game.

"Ideally we'd like some separation to occur, and one guy to take charge and settle in and be the guy, but that hasn't happened yet, so they're both going to get opportunities until that does happen," Whittingham said.

USC's defense leads the conference with nine interceptions.

The Trojans have swept three meetings since Utah joined the conference, including a 19-3 home victory last season in which they held the Utes to a season-low 201 yards and forced four turnovers. Kessler was 21 of 32 for 230 yards, including a 30-yard touchdown to Agholor.

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