The Trojans travel to CenturyLink field Saturday to challenge the Washington Huskies, who are no doubt reeling from a debilitating defeat at the hands of the Oregon Ducks. Good ol’ pals Lane Kiffin and Steve Sarkisian will square off in the Former USC Assistant Coaches Bowl, a face-off that has tipped in the Trojans’ favor most recently. The Trojans finished strong in their almost-horrifying game against the Utes, while the Huskies were Oregon’s latest whipping post.
But even though U-Dub did not put up much of a fight that does not give USC license to take this squad lightly.
The Trojans are just one game over .500 in Seattle when rain is a possibility, and as of the writing of this article, there’s a 40-percent chance of that happening on Saturday. USC barely leads the series in Seattle, posting an 18-17 record there and they have dropped eight of the last 14 while playing there. Furthermore, this will be Matt Barkley’s first time ever playing in Seattle, as he sat this game out in 2010 due to injury. There’s no way to accurately gauge how he will play in this unfamiliar territory, but if his second-half performance against Utah is any indication, he can be expected to rise to the occasion. These factors could prove not to be a hindrance at all, but if mixed, they could easily create a recipe for disaster.
To be sure, Washington does not look very menacing on paper anymore after at one point being another possible trap game for the Trojans. Against Oregon they gave up more than 600 yards, a truly terrible performance from a defense that had been pretty solid going into that game. Pre-Oregon, they were giving up 315 yards of total offense and only 167.8 yards through the air. Their defense might have lost a bit of confidence after being shredded by Oregon, and facing a USC team loaded with weapons is not exactly the team you want to face to re-build that confidence.
On the other hand, an upset win over mighty USC is exactly what Sark would like to accomplish.
The Trojans have the momentum going into this game as they massacred the Huskies at home in 2011, posting a 40-17 Homecoming victory. After punter Kyle Negrete’s 35-yard run stemming from fake punt on fourth-and-nine early in the second quarter, the Trojans scored five plays later and then extended their lead 23-3 by the half. That lead was never threatened. By the end of the game, USC had 426 yards to U Dub’s 244 (and only 46 rushing), an opponent season-low for the Trojans.
But if the Trojans haven’t forgot about that beat down, then there’s no doubt the Huskies haven’t, either. And they are going to be playing even angrier because of their most recent defeat. A Husky team with a chip on its shoulder will not be a team that lays down easily, and if USC goes about the first half of the this game like it did against Utah, they could once again find themselves in trouble.
USC will likely win this game, but they cannot play as if they know that going into the game. We saw some of that attitude against Stanford, and the results were disastrous. For the Trojans to add another mark to their wins column, they will need play with the mindset that everything is on the line and that their future depends on this win.
In reality, that is exactly the case.