Utah is a slight underdog for Friday’s Pac-12 Championship Game against USC. The Trojans are the higher-ranked team, but Utah has already beaten USC once this season — an Oct. 15 classic that was decided on a successful two-point conversion with less than a minute to play.

But USC is viewed as the overwhelming favorite to win the rematch and go to the College Football Playoff.

Head coach Kyle Whittingham is playing up the underdog role in the run-up to the game.

“Pretty much everyone’s got them winning already and going to the playoffs and Caleb (Williams) winning the Heisman,” Whittingham said Monday at his weekly press conference. “That’s already kind of been talked about. We love that role. We love the chip on our shoulder. We love nobody giving us a chance. We seem to thrive in that capacity and in that world.”

That mentality was met with a bit of pushback on social media. Utah spent the entire season inside the AP poll’s top 20. It is the defending Pac-12 champion and just won nine games for the seventh time in the last eight full seasons.

This is not a plucky upstart anymore. The Utes closed as favorites in all but one game this season; they were a one-point road dog against Oregon on Nov. 19.

They closed as a 3.5-point favorite in the 43-42 win over USC earlier this year.

The Utes are a worthy opponent of USC. They boast a top-10 scoring offense nationally, one of college football’s best quarterbacks, and one of its most established coaching staffs.

“We find ourselves in a very similar situation as last year, playing a team we already beat one time in league play,” Whittingham said. “As we all know, it’s very difficult to beat a really good team twice. But that’s what our challenge is. SC is ultra-talented.”

Whatever Whittingham can play to in order to give the Utes an edge, it seems he’s going to do it.