Utah has already heard back from the Pac-12 on its appeal of the targeting call that was levied against safety Cole Bishop last Saturday against Cal.

The Utes felt it was a questionable call, at best. The Pac-12 felt differently. The appeal was denied, which will leave the Utah defense without Bishop for the first half of its Week 8 matchup with No. 18 USC (5 p.m. PT, FOX).

“I don’t want to whine about it but it was (denied),” coach Kyle Whittingham said Monday when he met with reporters. “I still don’t see how it happened or how it was called and how it got denied on appeal. It’s baffling. Just don’t know how to coach it if that’s a penalty.”

Bishop is one of the most important players on this Utah defense.

He’s tied with Sione Vaki for the lead in tackles with 32. Utah sends him after the quarterback and has had great success doing so; Bishop has 4.5 tackles for loss and two sacks this season. He also has two interceptions and a forced fumble.

Without him, the Utes will turn to Nate Ritchie at the spot, and Whittingham expressed confidence in Ritchie’s ability to step in and “cover up” for Bishop until the second half.

Utah found something on offense with Vaki taking on an Eric Weddle-like role against Cal, running for 158 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries. He and Ja’Quinden Jackson partnered well in the backfield.

Vaki played both ways, something Whittingham said was born partly out of necessity but also partly out of just wanting to have their best players on the field.

Against USC’s explosive offense (though it has been less so of late), would Bishop’s absence in the first half change the calculus for Vaki on offense?

“We’ve got good depth at safety,” Whittingham said while mentioning Ritchie and Tao Johnson as another guy who can step in at the free safety spot. “That won’t impact Sione’s play on offense at all.”