When Washington has the ball:
Is Jake Locker a winner or is he the seasoned loser that one national pundit called him after the Nebraska game? We start to find out on Saturday because I believe the QB who does the best job on Saturday will win the game for his team.
I predict Jake is going to have a big game against the Trojan defense. He had success against it last season and he is used to seeing it in practice every day. Familiarity breeds comfort and Jake could use some comforting coming off the worst performance of his career against Nebraska.
The USC defense is talented and like Sark says has depth but they aren't playing well together as a unit at the moment. WSU moved the ball for 323 yards against them last weekend. Jeff Tuel was 26-41 against them last week for 256 yards. So that is proof that you can attack the USC secondary even though Tuel also tossed three interceptions.
The Huskies ran the ball well against the Trojans last season and there is no reason to think that won't continue this season since most of the same participants return. As usual expect Chris Polk to be near the century mark by the end of the game with some quality carries also coming from Jessie Callier.
The big question most have going into this one is how much will Jake run this week? We haven't seen him unleashed yet this season and it would seem the conference opener would be a good time to start exploiting that part of his skill set. USC has had trouble containing mobile QB's this season.
Look for USC to put a spy on Locker the entire game. That spy will likely be LB Michael Morgan who starts on the SC strong side. Morgan has really good speed so this will be one of the game most intriguing match-ups.
When USC has the ball:
Matt Barkley sat out last years game with a sore shoulder and Washington pulled off a 16-13 upset over the Trojans. Barkley is a real good pocket passer who uses all of his receivers. He also checks off well if they are covered. When that happens FB Stan Havilli is an excellent option who catches a lot of opponents off guard for big gains catching the ball out of the backfield.
Barkley has four interceptions in the last two games (Minnesota / WSU) so there will be opportunities for the Huskies to pick up some turnovers. One of the reason UW won last years game was because of USC turnovers which erased scoring opportunities.
As usual the Trojans are loaded at running back. They ran the ball all day against WSU and will attempt to do the same thing to Washington to establish early control of the game. Marc Tyler, Alan Bradford, and Dillon Baxter are all dangerous RB's who can take it to the house at anytime. The Trojans are averaging 218 yards per game on the ground. They are also averaging over 6 yards per carry which is near their historical high.
Speaking of Dillon Baxter UW coach Steve Sarkisian has his team prepared for the Wildcat formation. Sark is either screwing with Kiffin's head or he really believes the possibility exists they will run it. Baxter has been in the dog house over the first third of the season but this may be the game they unleash his considerable abilities.
Another surprise the Trojans may have in store for the Huskies is a no huddle offense. USC used it a bit against WSU last week and we could see quite a bit of it on Saturday. Kiffin has hinted that he has been holding back on using some offensive schemes until conference play begins.
What has hurt Washington on special teams has been sloppy play on the coverage and return units. It simply breaks down to blocking and tackling better if they want to beat USC. The kicking and punting have been solid.
The Trojans have had a problem kicking field goals. They have had two touchdown returns, and have blocked three kicks over the first four games. That tells you that they have some guys that can move.
The thermometer has gotten as high as 120 degrees this week in the Los Angeles area. The forecast calls for it to cool down by game time but heat may still be an issue by game time.
Turnovers were a big key for last years game and it will also be a factor in this one.
Washington is the best team on paper that USC has played so far this season.
Washington has started slow in their past three games. It crippled them against BYU and Nebraska but they were able to overcome it against Syracuse. If UW wants to win this game they need to start fast and play mistake free.
USC DE Armond Armstead missed the WSU game because of injury but will be back for Washington. DE Wes Horton is listed as doubtful. DE Nick Perry has been in and out of the line-up this season with injuries as well.
The Trojans are not eligible for postseason play and have looked lackadaisical under Lane Kiffin at times this season.
Running Backs: Even
Offensive Line: USC
Defensive Line: USC
Defensive Backs: Even
Special Teams : USC
Steve Sarkisian quotes:
"The game isn't about Lane Kiffin or myself, it's about our players and their ability to go out and play in a big-time Pac-10 atmosphere at an extremely high level.''
"They've got an extreme amount of depth. They've got so much depth, which is so different than most of the teams in our conference. Oregon and Stanford are good football teams, that's not a knock on those guys, trust me. What SC has that is different is the overall depth. They can sustain injuries and replace them with players just as good. That's what makes them unique.''
"We have a horrible taste in our mouth from that last ball game(Nebraska). We just want to get rid of it."
Lane Kiffin quotes:
"I don't think that motivation will be a factor or trying to motivate. They are coming home, not very happy with the way we played in our home opener, and they are very motivated to play a team that beat them last year.''
"There was a lot of focus on game five (UW) in the off-season. We'll see if it pays off because we've spent a ton of time on these guys."
"That's a trick he learned from Lou Holtz or something,'' Kiffin said, a reference to Holtz's reputation for inflating the strength of his opponent each week. "They are really, really good and people who follow us know we are not very deep.''
"We can barely find enough guys to practice. Our service team is made up of some kids from science class. Half of them never played football before."
"Besides our freshmen, he (Sark) knows this whole team. … It’ll still be an advantage for them for the next two years."
Bulletin Board Material:
USC DE Wes Horton - "I just want to get back at them so bad. It was an embarrassing loss last year. We have a lot of fuel. We have a lot of fire built up. We're really going to let it loose on them next week."
USC LB Michael Morgan -"He's a great athlete (Locker), and we understand that, but he has a hell of an arm, that's for sure. We know we've gotta respect his passing game as well, but we know we've gotta focus on the run because in the past few games, like in Hawaii, the quarterbacks have scrambled on us a little bit."
UW QB Jake Locker - "I think it will make me better go forward. It wasn't anywhere near where I wanted to play individual and where we wanted to play as a football team. Learning how to put that behind you and have a good productive week of practice and coming out this week and having another and preparing for a very good SC football team is really important in your growth as a football player. It's not always going to go as you want to and you've got to learn how to bounce back and how to deal with situations like that.''
UW LB Cort Dennison - "Last year was last year. We've got to worry about this year. They are undefeated and we are 1-2, so we've just got to worry about doing all we can to win and getting at them as fast as we possibly can. We can't wait to get hit. We have to hit them first. I'm sure they are going to have a chip on their shoulder from what happened last year but that doesn't affect us in any way."
Kickoff Saturday is set for 5:00 p.m. and the game will air live nationwide on ESPN2 television.
Husky coach Steve Sarkisian and first-year Trojans head man Lane Kiffin spent five seasons together on Pete Carroll’s staff at USC.
Washington is 27-49-4 all time against USC.
USC has a 32-game winning streak in home night games.
Washington beat USC 16-13 last season in Seattle.
Two years ago in L.A. USC blanked the Dawgs 56-0.
Washington is 10-30 all time at the Coliseum.
The Trojans are scoring 37 points per game.
The Trojans are giving up 21.8 points per game.
Washington has given up 213.67 yards per game on the ground.
The Trojans are averaging 218 yards per game on the ground.
All five of USC's tailbacks who have carried the ball this season are averaging at least 4.1 yards per carry.