Gameday Preview: USC Trojans vs. Washington Huskies


Original Photos via Kirby Lee and Steven Bisig-US PRESSWIRE. Artwork by Michael Castillo, Reign of Troy.

USC Trojans at Washington Huskies

CenturyLink Field | Seattle, Washington4:00 PM Pacific | FOXAll-time Series: USC 50-28-4Last meeting: USC 40, Washington 17 in 2011

For all intents and purposes, the USC vs. Washington conference rivalry is historically the best non-geographic duel in the conference, given it’s roots in history. The teams are first and third in conference titles, first and third overall in Rose Bowl appearances(Michigan is second), and are the only two Pac-12 schools to win multiple national titles since 1960. And, since Washington was first crowned in 1960, they have the same amount of titles as LSU, Georgia, Florida State and Penn State. But for all of that history, the rivalry hasn’t exactly become intense of late. Sure, the Huskies beat the Trojans twice on last-second field goals in 2009 and 2010, but both schools haven’t been on the same level since 1995. With two coaches that know each other so well and dramatic finishes of late, a rivalry could be budding. A barn-burner tonight and the schools could be one step closer to a re-born rivalry, but both teams come in with moments of underachieving on their resume in 2012, and a loss could end either’s hopes of getting to the Rose Bowl.

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When Washington has the ball…

The Huskies are averaging just 4.61 yards per play, good for 11th in the conference and 114th in the nation. For a team with as much talent as the Huskies have on offense and with a highly touted offensive mind calling plays, it’s startling just how inept Washington has been. While it shows more at quarterback with Keith Price, the issues within Washington’s offense lies on the offensive line. The Huskies have started just two players in all five games on the line, including center Drew Schaeferand left tackle Michah Hatchie. Injuries have been the main culprit, as two returning starters at guard, Colin Tanigawa and Eric Kohler, have been lost to knee injuries, with the former done for the season. For the Huskies to establish a rhythm on offense against the Trojans, they’ll need Keith Price to have his best game of the season, while spreading the ball around, getting former USC-commit Jaydon Mickens some touches and making the Trojans stop Sankey, Seferian-Jenkins and Williams. If they can play to their offensive potential, they can be the toughest test for the USC defense to date. If they play to their current form, the Trojans should be able to penetrate the line and force Price’s hand. For more on Washington’s offense, click here.

The USC defense has been the talk of the season so far, and in the last two games against Cal and Utah, they dominated at times. The first team defense has given up just one long touchdown drive in the last two games, and have controlled the line of scrimmage in every game but the stumble against Stanford. With Keith Price’s struggles, the Trojans have to be licking their chops considering that UW features a weak offensive line and a quarterback without confidence. But, the arrival of Bishop Sankey as an explosive runner for the Huskies will give USC a tough test within the front seven, and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins will force USC’s hand, as Troy always seems to struggle to cover tight ends.

Washington’s Projected Offensive Starters:WR Kasen Williams #2LT Micah Hatchie #72LG Dexter Charles #76C Drew Shcaefer #73RG James Atoe #70 or Shane Brostek #60RT Mike Criste #78 or Ben Riva #59TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins #88QB Keith Price #17RB Bishop Sankey #25FB Jonathan Amosa #48WR Jaydon Mickens #4 or Kevin Smith #8WR DiAndre Campbell #19

USC’s Projected Defensive StartersDE Wes Horton #96DT George Uko #90NT Antwaun Woods #99DE Morgan Breslin #91WLB Hayes Pullard #10MLB Lamar Dawson #55SLB Dion Bailey #18CB Nickell Robey #21SS Jawanza Starling #29FS T.J. McDonald #7CB Torin Harris #4

When USC has the ball…

The Trojans’ offensive line struggled to keep Utah DT Star Lotulelei at bay in the first quarter last week, but bounced back and were not only able to neutralize the Utes’ pressure, but allow time for Barkley to throw in the pocket. The passing game looked the best it has all year, a sign that the Trojans just might be ready to show off their offense the rest of the season. They could be without Curtis McNeal however, as the running back left the game last week due to a concussion and his status for tonight’s game remains unknown. D.J. Morgan has been taking reps as the Trojans’ second tailback behind Silas Redd, and appears to be ready to go as USC prepares for what could be a grind ’em out game given the likelihood of inclement weather.

When defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox came to Washington from Tennessee, the Huskies were severely in need of a quick turn around on defense, coming off easily one of the worst defensive performances in bowl history, a 67-56 loss to Baylor in which UW gave up 777 total yards. Wilcox has not only vastly improved the Huskies, he’s turned the 106th defense in the country a year ago into a squad ranked 40th despite two blowouts to teams ranked No. 2; LSU and Oregon. Wilcox has brought a 4-3 base defense that almost presents itself as a 3-4 hybrid nickel package, given the presence of freshman phenom Shaq Thompson playing the nickel and Josh Shirley at the hybrid rush end spot. With rain and a strong secondary against them, the Trojans could be forced to run a lot on Saturday, so it’ll be interesting to see how the front seven responds, and if Shirley can get going for the Huskies. For more on Washington’s defense, click here.

USC’s Projected Offensive StartersWR Robert Woods #2TE Xavier Grimble #86 or Randall Telfer #82LT Aundrey Walker #70 or Max Tuerk #75LG Marcus Martin #66 or Abe Markowitz #50C Khaled Holmes #78RG John Martinez #59RT Kevin Graf #77WR Marqise Lee #9QB Matt Barkley #7RB Silas Redd #25FB Soma Vainuku #31

Washington’s Projected Defensive Starters:DE Talia Crichton #11NT Danny Shelton #71DE Andrew Hudson #93R Josh Shirley #22LB Travis Feeney #41LB John Timu #10LB Princeton Fuimaino #37NI Shaq Thompson #7S Will Shamburger #13 or Justin Glenn #20S Sean Parker #1CB Desmond Trufant #6CB Tre Watson #32 or Marcus Peters #21

Game Notes

  • The Trojans have scored in 186 straight games since being shutout 27-0 vs. Washington in 1997. The feat gives the Trojans a chance to break the record against Washington, should they score tonight.
  • Matt Barkley has never played at Washington, nor has a Lane Kiffin-coached team gone up to Seattle. When Barkley was scheduled to start in 2009 against the Huskies, he missed the game due to an injury, and Aaron Corp took the reigns in an upset loss.
  • USC is just 21-22-2 in games with rain. Today’s forecast calls for a 70 percent chance of precipitation.
  • Since 1947, Washington has won 75.7 percent of its games in which a Husky running back has run for 100 yards. Bishop Sankey has hit the century mark in each of the last three games, and UW is 2-1 in those games.
  • Two Trojans hail from Washington, including Zach Banner, who is former UW star Lincoln Kennedy’s son. Also, punter Kyle Negrete has a cousin playing for the Huskies, linebacker Nate Fellner.
  • Steve Sarkisian was a USC assistant for seven years, yet in the three times facing Troy since his departure, he’s 2-1. Sark’s two wins puts him in a small club of coaches who have beaten USC twice within the last ten years. The list includes Mike Reilly and Jim Harbaugh who have done it three times, as well as Chip Kelly and David Shaw, who each have two wins along with Sarkisian.