The good news is this is our third straight home game to start the season. The bad news is it is USC and they should be ranked in the top ten when we suit up to play them. Washington has a history of playing well against the Trojans even when USC has superior talent. I expect that coach Sarkisian will have his guys ready for what looks to be the toughest game on the schedule. Make no mistake about it...this is a big game for the new UW coaching staff.
USC has superior talent and depth at almost every single position in comparison to Washington. It will take a major miracle for UW to pull off the upset. Miracles do happen...just ask Stanford and Oregon State who have been a major thorn in the side of the mighty Trojans over the last few years.
USC returns nine starters on offense and that includes the entire offensive line. The absence of quarterback Mark Sanchez and wide receiver Patrick Turner are big losses, but getting back the entire offensive line, a slew of talented rushers and more than enough receivers should be enough to make another run at a conference title and a possible BCS championship game.
Stafon Johnson, Joe McKnight and C.J. Gable are all back at RB. Not one of those players stole the show, but the three combined for nearly 2,000 rushing yards and 19 trips to the end zone. The receiving corps has plenty of talent led by Damian Williams, Ronald Johnson. Stanley Havili is a bruising FB who is also a receiving threat in the Trojan tradition coming out of the backfield.
The big question is just who replaces Matt Sanchez?
Mitch Mustain would be the logical choice, but sophomore Aaron Corp was named the starter after the spring game and he has a good chance to stick. When you factor in all the quality playmakers USC has at their disposal, any quarterback should be very successful. Matt Barkley is another guy they will take a look at in the fall but the sure bet is he redshirts.
On defense the Trojans are rebuilding with only three starters returning. The good news for USC is that all world safety Taylor Mays decided to forego the NFL draft and return for his senior season. DE Everson Griffen returns to rush the passer. Griffen was impressive this spring as the veteran offensive line seemed almost powerless to stop him from getting into the backfield.
The defensive backfield will be led at the safety positon by Mays, and Will Harris, who started five of the final six games in place of the injured and now departed Kevin Ellison. Kevin Thomas, who started twice and played regularly as part of a three-corner rotation and Shareece Wright, who began 2008 as a starter before suffering a season-ending neck injury should be the starting cornerbacks. Josh Pinkard who is returning from injuries has the potential to be one of the corners on the coast when healthy.
The 6'4", 220 linebacker Michael Morgan has the size and athleticism to big things for the Trojans. He showed some flashes of what he can do on the field last year getting 22 tackles (five for a loss), a sack plus a fumble recovery. Malcolm Smith is another LB whose time has come to emerge who will compete to start on the weakside. Chris Gallipo who the coaches admire for his leaderships abilities should anchor the middle. Jordan Campbell is another guy to keep an eye on who could emerge as a starter this fall.
Three of the four starters on USC's 2008 defensive line are headed to the NFL. The one holdover DE Everson Griffen should join them next year. Wes Horton, Malik Jackson, Christian Topou, Derek Simmons, Nick Perry, and Armond Armstead will fight it out for the three open positions.
USC will be picked to win the conference again and as usual they are always a threat to run the gauntlet and challenge for a national championship. Most think this won't be the Trojans year because of the loss of Sanchez, and eight defenders. OC Steve Sarkisian and DC Nick Holt are also big losses even though the Trojan faithful are ignoring it. The loss of two experienced coordinators will hurt early in the season.
Washington will be improved and coming off a confidence building win against Idaho. USC will focus on knocking Jake Locker out of the game. We all know that the key to a productive Washington offense is Jake Locker. Without him in there the Huskies will flounder. Sarkisian's goal all spring has been to get Locker to win more with his arm than his legs. A healthy Locker gives the Huskies a good chance to compete in any game they play.
Getting the Trojans early as they are working out the kinks is probably a good thing for the Huskies. UW historically plays well against Troy and expect Sarkisian to have his charges fired up for this one.
I have to go with USC by 17 points in this one. I think the Huskies will have success moving the ball against a rebuilding Trojan defense but offensively USC should be light years ahead of UW with a veteran offensive line returning.
Anything can happen and that is why they play the game. A terrible Stanford team beat these guys a couple of years ago and it can happen again.