- Associated Press - Friday, October 24, 2014

Nearly two months into the season and Utah coach Kyle Whittingham is still waiting for one of his starting quarterbacks to stand out.

Until that time, he will keep rotating between Travis Wilson and Kendal Thompson.

Wilson will be the starter when No. 19 Utah (5-1, 2-1 Pac-12) hosts No. 20 USC (5-2, 4-1) on Saturday. But Whittingham wouldn’t rule out the possibility that Thompson may see some snaps as well.

Just don’t call this a two-quarterback system, though. Whittingham doesn’t see it that way even if they each bring something different to the field - Wilson the better arm and Thompson the better runner.

“It’s very tight,” Whittingham said of the competition. “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.”

There’s no such debate with the Trojans, especially after Cody Kessler threw a school-record seven touchdown passes in a 56-28 win over Colorado.

“I’d love to do that every week, if I could,” Kessler said.

Since his record-setting day, Kessler has heard from plenty of former Trojan QBs. Matt Barkley dropped him a line, so did Matt Leinart and Mark Sanchez.

It’s meant a lot to him, especially hearing from Barkley, since it was his record that Kessler broke. Plus, Barkley was like a “big brother” to him before he left for the NFL.

“A lot of stuff that I learned here is from (Barkley),” Kessler said. “He taught me the game here, and how to handle everything, and how to be off the field as well. To be able to do that and hear from him after was a really cool feeling, just because of how close our relationship is.”

Kessler probably won’t have nearly as much time to throw against the Utes, who lead the nation in total sacks. He’s already watched the UCLA game earlier this month in which Utah sacked Brett Hundley 10 times, including a school record-tying four by Nate Orchard.

“They do a really great job of hiding pressures,” Kessler said. “They disguise their blitzes so well that it’s really hard to read. Normally, when you see teams, you say, ‘OK, this is where they’re lined up. They might pressure you this way.’ They’ll bring a pressure out of nowhere that you don’t expect.”

Things to watch when USC travels to Salt Lake City for just the second time since 1917:

BOOKER VS. ALLEN: Two elite tailbacks will be featured in this game. Utah’s Devontae Booker is coming off a game in which he rushed for 229 yards and three TDs in a double-overtime win at Oregon State. USC’s Javorius Allen had a game against Arizona two weeks ago where he rushed for 205 yards and three scores.

“They are very balanced on offense,” Whittingham said. “They’re doing a great job throwing the football with Kessler, and Allen is a terrific back. We’ve got our own back that we’re very high on (Booker), so that will be an intriguing matchup.”

KICK START: The Utes lead the nation in net punting behind the strong leg of Tom Hackett. He’s placed 18 of his 37 punts inside the 20.

“Huge weapon,” Whittingham said. “It can’t be overstated how valuable he’s been to our team.”

LUCKY SEVEN: Kessler’s seven TD passes against Colorado were the same number USC athletic director Pat Haden threw the entire year when he helped the Trojans to a national title in 1972.

That’s today’s uptempo football. But Kessler has a throwback attitude.

“The beauty of Cody, you wouldn’t know today if he threw seven touchdowns or he didn’t play great,” USC coach Steve Sarkisian. “He just brings a really workmanlike attitude every day he comes out on the field.”

RISING UP: The Utes have their highest ranking in the AP poll since Nov. 7, 2010, when they were 15th. They’re planning on wearing all black uniforms for this occasion.

Should be plenty noisy, too, as Rice-Eccles Stadium is expected be sold out for the 29th consecutive time.

DEEP ROSTER: Whittingham is impressed with the depth of talent on the Trojans.

“Maybe the most talented team in the conference, man-for-man,” Whittingham said. “Just what you would expect out of an SC team year in and year out with the talent level. We have to be at our best this weekend, and we hope to do that.”

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AP Sports Writer Greg Beacham in Los Angeles contributed.

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