The #3 University of Southern California Trojans invade Seattle today to take on the rebuilding Washington Huskies. The game has some national intrigue because it will be the first time Steve Sarkisian and Nick Holt will be facing their old mentor Pete Carroll. Washington has shown well the last two weeks but this game will give everyone a pretty accurate gauge of exactly who this team is.
I think Washington caught a talented LSU team at the right time. LSU took them lightly and Washington exceeded expectations and hung around the entire game.
I thought they would do better against Idaho defensively. I was surprised by the passing yards and points the Vandals were able to put on the board. I think because of the liberal substitution and the amount of players seeing their first action it was what it was.
Today Washington may be benefitting again by playing a top ten team at the right time. USC is beaten up and it is there second consecutive road game. Matt Barkley isn't going to play because of a shoulder injury. Aaron Corp is going to be starting his first game. That is a big plus even though Barkley only has two games of experience. Joe McKnight has been suffering from migraines and the flu. His time could be limited. Taylor Mays is banged up and hasn't practiced all week. So the Trojans have a few problems going into this one.
Pete Carroll is keeping everything pretty close to his vest. He hasn't announced a starter and won't do it until game time even though he admits he already knows who he is going to go with.
I think USC is going to come out and try to run the ball down Washington's throat. They have two All American's on the offensive line and they are going to try overpower Washington. The Husky defense has been stiff against the run so I think this will be a very interesting matchup. I would be surprised if the Trojans throw more than twenty-five times today. I think they will try to control the clock and keep it out of the hands of the one man that can beat them, Jake Locker.
The biggest key to the game is turnovers. The Trojans have a few potential land mines to exploit. The long snapping and punting have been eratic. So the chances of blocking a punt, forcing poor punts, or getting a long return is high. It is going to be wet today and SC hates playing in the rain. Fumbles happen in the rain. McKnight has a tendency to fumble. He was sick most of the week but is scheduled to start today. McKnight who can be inconsistent is due for a bad game. The Trojans missed a FG last week in the second half so that part of the game isn't steady. QB Aaron Corp is getting his first significant action so he could get rattled and make mistakes. On the other hand he is more mobile than Barkley and he can stretch the defense.
Pete Carroll has a big history of going for it on fourth down. Since he doesn't have confidence in his kicking game I expect him to test the Husky defense with four downs until they can stop him.
On offense the Huskies need to stay balanced like they were against LSU. Polk and Fogerson need to have solid games so the Trojans won't tee off on Locker. If the Husky running backs have difficulty gaining yards than the coaches will be tempted to have Jake pick up the slack. We have nine more games left in the season and they need to avoid beating up Jake. It will be interesting to see how many carries Jake gets in this one.
Washington needs to come out and grab an early lead and make the Trojans chase them. Some three and outs from the defense would be nice. Pick up a fumble here, an interception there, a big play on special teams, and you have the recipe for an upset.
I said earlier this week that the Huskies had a 20-30% chance of winning this one and I really believe it. I think the table is set for opportunity and they just might be getting the Trojans at an ideal time.
Stewart Mandel of Sports Illustrated is predicting a Husky upset today. You love to hear stuff like that but Mandel isn't very good at making predictions. He is only 8-12 for the year so far.
Upset Special: Yep -- I'm going for broke with this one. It's a classic letdown game for USC. Husky Stadium will be revved up, Washington quarterback Jake Locker can cause problems for any defense and the Trojans' offense showed against Ohio State it's still quite clearly a work in progress -- and that was before quarterback Matt Barkley hurt his shoulder.
Ken Goe of the Oregonian who is a friend of the blog is going a different direction.
1. Everybody agrees: No hard feelings about the way Steve Sarkisian jumped ship at USC for a conference rival, then tried to steal Pete Carroll's assistants.
2. Yeah, they're best buddies. Just like Rep. Joe Wilson and President Obama.
3. Some people believe the Huskies could win.
4. Some people believe a pill provides natural male enhancement.
5. I think it's the Trojans by four touchdowns -- more if Carroll keeps his foot on the gas.
Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times thinks Washington will cover but isn't going to predict the upset. He thinks the Trojans won't fall into the trap of overlooking the Huskies. I am not so sure. The Trojan coaches won't overlook UW but you can't ignore the fact that USC beat UW 56-0 last season. Tough to build respect with 18-22 year old kids coming off of that performance.
Is Saturday the day the turnaround truly starts for the Washington Huskies? The game everyone points to years from now as the day Washington regained college football legitimacy? I don't rule it out, but I'm just not ready to take that Mandel-ian leap and make that call.
Mandel also cited this being a classic letdown game for the Trojans. But that's the one place where I think the reunion of Sarkisian and Holt with the Trojans works against UW. I think that alone will prevent USC from looking past this one, with all the talk about how USC will overlook the Huskies one only further keeping the Trojans alert.
So add it up and I'm calling it USC 28, UW 17.
Todd Milles of the News Tribune chimes in with his pick.
Will the running threat of Jake Locker be enough to open passing lanes? Last week, USC held multi-threat Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor to 36 yards on 10 rushes, and a dismal 11-of-25, 177-yard passing effort on the road. ... How can the UW slow down tailback Joe McKnight? The Huskies are holding their own between the tackles. It’s the sweeps and off-tackle runs where McKnight could have a field day.
TNT pick: USC 29, UW 27.
Pac 10 Game Day
California at Minnesota
California is up 21-7 late in the second quarter against Minnesota. The new Gopher stadium is pretty amazing. Another thing that is pretty amazing is Jahvid Best and the overall speed of the California team. Best is a true Heisman candidate who has three TD's and 114 yards so far in the first half!
Minnesota picks up a TD with 4o seconds to go in the half to narrow the margin to 21-14. Despite the heroics of Best the Gophers are still hanging around.
It is tied 21-21 in the fourth quarter and Cal just went three and out at the 50 yard line. Minnesota has the momentum and the ball with 13:45 left.
California closes strong and wins 35-21 in a game that was closer than the score indicated.
Utah at Oregon
The Ducks are up 21-7 at home with 1:40 to go in the game. Most of us thought Utah was pretty over rated after struggling with SJSU last week. That seems to be the case in this one. a 78 yard Walter Thurmond punt return is the play of the game so far.
Arizona at Iowa
The Hawkeyes are up 14-10 at the half.
SMU at WSU
They just kicked off this stinker in Pullman.
Michigan State at Notre Dame
Since they are a future opponent i thought I would throw this one in. They trail Michigan State 17-16 with a minute left in the first. I would love to see the Irish fall again this week and watch the Charley Weis excuse conference after the game.