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Washington vs USC Preview

KJR's Dick Baird is fond of saying that the leading indicator that Husky football is back when they beat USC. Baird knows what he is talking about because when you beat the Trojans it sends a signal up and down the West coast that your program can compete with anyone in the country. Baird knows beating USC is a stepping stone into gaining entrance into every HS recruits living room in the West.

Sark and company are already in a lot of those living rooms. Knocking off his former boss would give him even more leverage in bringing in the type of athlete needed to compete on the national stage every single year. USC will always recruit well, that is a given, but USC can't take every player.

I don't remember many years if any when Washington out recruited USC on paper when Don James was here. The key has always been to get the best in state, steal a few great one's from the Trojans, and fill in the rest with the kids who have been going to Oregon, and Cal the better part of a decade.

I am not predicting a certain upset on Saturday however this game is on every experts upset watch list. Washington has a 25-30 percent chance of beating these guys at home this week. The keys to winning the game are stopping the run, eliminating the big play, forcing turnovers, and winning the special teams battle.

Husky Stadium isn't a great place for the opposition when the place gets rocking. If Washington can come out and grab an early lead it is going to create momentum in the stands and on the field like it did against LSU. It isn't like USC isn't conditioned for that after playing in Columbus but the crowd is a huge factor.

Another huge factor is the Washington offense led by Jake Locker who is completing 60% of his passes this season. When your QB is capable of doing that plus has the intangible of being mobile it can drive a defense crazy.

Washington has a chance in this one. There will be opportunities and this young rebuilding team needs to seize the moment and take it to the next level.

Position Match Ups

Quarterback - Washington...Jake Locker has completed 60% of his passes so far this season and he is a threat to take the ball to the end zone every time he runs it. Locker just may have evolved into the best player in the Pac 10. Barkley has done well this season and doesn't play like a freshman. Matt has also completed 60% of his passes.Last weeks drive should give him a lot of confidence but he may not even start because of a shoulder injury. Aaron Corp is just as good as Barkley so if Matt doesn't go it shouldn't hurt the Trojan's much.

Tailbacks - Even...USC has better depth but you can't play ten players at one time. The duo of Polk and Fogerson is equal at this point to Johnson and McKnight. I don't know any analysts who would agree with me this early but Washington's run game is solid. McKnight has a propensity to fumble the ball. We haven't seen it yet this season but lets hope it comes this week on what should be a wet field at Husky Stadium.

Fullback - Even...Homer has one carry this season but his blocking has been superb. I wouldn't be surprised if they used him more as a skill player this week to throw a changeup at the Trojans. Stan Havili is the future of what the UW FB will evolve into. Stan is a dangerous skill guy who blocks as well as Homer. When you throw in Fogerson at H-Back you have to call this even.

Wide Receivers - Even...I would put UW's receivers up against almost anyone's in the conference. USC has better size but they don't have the advantage of Jake Locker delivering the ball. USC on the other hand has the advantage of going up against the Washington secondary. I call this even because I have seen what are unit can do against a strong and fast secondary.

Tight Ends - USC...Anthony McCoy is the complete package and arguably the best the Pac 10 has right now at the position. Depth, experience, and blocking ability wins out by a nose here. Kavario Middleton may just have the stickiest hands of any TE I have seen at UW. Once he becomes a better blocker he will be an AA TE.

Offensive Line - USC...UW has exceeded expectations so far but how many of these guys will play in Sundays? USC on the other hand has a couple of potential All American's and plenty of guys top to bottom who will play in the NFL. USC has to meet the challenge of Washington's interior. Ta'amu and Elsiara have been stellar this season against the run.

Defensive Tackle...Even...UW has been able to stop the run its first two games and that really is the way you judge the interior of the defensive line. USC has the potential to do the same. Both teams will try to take away the running game on Saturday.

Defensive End...USC...Daniel Teo Neshiem hasn't had a big game yet. Darrion Jones has only played one series this season but will be bak in the rotation this week. The Trojans have a lot of depth and even with the injury of Armistead have an edge if you look at the results of the first two games. Washington needs some big plays out of its DE's.

Linebacker...USC...At first glance you would call it even because the Trojans are breaking in three young guys and Washington has a lot more experience. Overall the Trojans have better athletes in the three deep even though the starters don't have as much experience as UW does. I have been impressed with USC's new trio.

Cornerback...USC...Shareece Wright is ineligible but the Trojans have plenty of plenty of depth. Keith Pinkard has moved over from safety to take Wrights spot. UW is still trying to find the right answers even though play has improved. Could any of the UW CB's get playing time at USC? Play at corner has improved dramatically for UW but the Trojans have the serious horses.

Safety...USC...Washington is still trying to find a tandem that works well together. Nate Williams is having a great year but somebody in the trio of Glenn, Aiyewa, or Walker needs to emerge beside him. taylor Mays is banged up but will probably play on his last trip to his home town.

Special Teams...Washington...USC has been less than special in this area while Washington has had only one mistake so far. This may be an area the Huskies can exploit. Expect UW to try to block some punts.

Game Matchups

Washington running game versus the USC defense

Washington has run the ball well in the past two games. We haven't seen huge plays but the Huskies are able to move the rock and convert. USC will try to take this dimension away and put the game completely on Jake Locker's shoulders. Washington's offensive line has exceeded expectations and they need to continue doing that this week against probably the toughest defensive front they will play all season.

The Huskies need to keep that going so the Trojans have more to focus on than just Jake Locker.

Washington Passing Game versus the USC defense

Jake Locker has been magnificient this season. Everything he does has improved and his ability to create with his arm rather than his feet has blossomed under Sarkisian. Washington just may be one of the better passing teams int he country right now. The Trojans are going to have trouble getting to Jake because of his mobility. If you chase Jake he just might burn you seriously a few times with the run.

USC likes to attack and Washington needs to take advantage of that tendency. Sark and Holt know the Trojans inside and out. It gives Washington an advantage because they know how Carroll thinks and reacts. When USC blitzes Washington needs to take advantage of that and burn them deep.Big plays can happen against an attacking defense.

The USC defense is rugged but teams do have success pasing the ball against them inside the conference. Washington should be able to move the ball through the air.

USC rushing game versus the Washington defense

USC is living by the run early this season to take the pressure off their freshman quarterback. the Trojans always have a strong run game and they use it effectively to balance their offensive production at the other skill positions. The Washington defense has done one thing exceptionally well this season and that is stop the run. They were already tested by a great offensive line is the LSU game and the talent they face this Saturday may even be better. Idaho by the way was no slouch in the offensive line and running department. Washington stuffed them most of the game.

Washington's goal is to control the USC running game and put the game on the shoulders of Matt Barkley or Aaron Corp. Nathan Endele who is no Matt Barkley or Aaron Corp picked apart the UW midsection last week which is probably something USC will try to do. The difference this week is that Washington will be playing its "A" team almost the entire game. Alameda Ta'amu and Cameron elisara need to have the biggest games of their careers this week. Ta'amu is the budding star nobody knows about. This week may just be his coming out party on ABC.

McKnight has a history of fumbling even though we haven't seen that this season. Washington needs to concentrate on stripping the ball to create turnovers.

UW's linebackers have been very capable in the cleanup department behind the defensive line. My take is that Washington will have success stopping the run and the game will be decided in the air.

USC passing game versus the Washington Defense

Matt Barkley and Aaron Corp are probably studying the Idaho film as I write this and I expect the USC coaches will arm them with a game plan that alllows them to go over the top of the UW linebackers with a high percentage passing game. Washington hopes they can get enough pressure on him to force him into freshman mistakes. The coaches admitted they were in a vanilla defensive plan last week designed to get the younger players more experience to help build the depth. This week expect the defense to resemble more of what we saw against LSU.

The special teams battle

If UW is going to beat USC they need a special teams victory. that means they need to eliminate returns like they have been doing all year and not make any mistakes which takes points off the board. Look for Washington to be very agressive in going after the USC punter. They are having problems with snaps and getting the ball off in enough time.

USC like LSU has incredible team speed so look for Washington to revert back to the short kickoffs to eliminate long returns. Look for Pete Carrol to try to figure a way around that.

The intangibles

USC has a habit of letting down after big wins. Last seasons let down was a loss to Oregon State after defeating Ohio State.

“I’ve said this before: I think Jake is one of the best players I’ve ever seen in this conference, in all the years we’ve been here,” said USC coach Pete Carroll, who has been with the Trojans since 2001. “He’s the most extraordinary athlete at the position we’ve seen, and I saw that as a freshman.”

Game Notes

UW is second in the nation in third-down conversions to Florida at 22-33.

The Huskies lead the Pac-10 in passing offense at 287.0 yards per game, which is also 20th in the nation.

UW is 36th overall in total offense at 436 per game.

UW is 101st in pass efficiency defense and 96th in pass defense, allowing 260.5 yards per game.

Jake Locker leads the Pac-10 and is 14th in the nation in total offense at 321.5 per game. He is also 37th in the nation and third in the Pac-10 in passing efficiency at 149.59.

Pete Carroll (90-15), ninth season. He wins 85.7 percent of his games, best of any active Division I coach with at least five years of tenure.

Safety Taylor Mays, an O’Dea graduate, is on six preseason award watch lists.

Washington has't beaten USC since Pete Carroll's first season at USC.

USC leads the series 49-26-4.