It's funny how the schedule works out sometimes - on the same season that Chris Petersen had to face his old team for the first time since he left Boise State for Washington, the Huskies get to travel to USC to take on the Trojans for the first time since Sark left (and thus opening up the job for Petersen). What's not so funny for the Huskies is both of these games are road games. The Huskies came up just short against the Broncos - do they have what it takes to take down the Trojans in the Coliseum?
There's no getting around the fact that the Trojans are stacked with talent and (mostly) over their depth issues caused by NCAA sanctions, and even considering their loss to Stanford, they're playing very well so far this year. Cody Kessler isn't going to wow you with his physical traits, but he's brutally efficient and does a great job utilizing the many weapons at his disposal. From Juju Smith-Schuster to Adoree Jackson to Ronald Jones II to Justin Davis, the Trojans have an embarrassment of riches on offense. The good news is the Huskies are legit on defense: S&P lists them 18th overall so far, tops in the Pac-12. That may change after Thursday, but Washington has the quality depth to not get gassed by USC's HUNH approach and have played assignment-sound and (mostly) disciplined thus far (some poor tackling being the outlier).
The not-so-good news is the Husky offense remains a work-in-progress. With a young OL getting their feet wet in front of a true frosh QB throwing to a below-par WR group, it's not a surprise that they've had their struggles. This would be a great time for the OL to take a step forward and provide some running lanes for Dwayne Washington and Myles Gaskin and to allow Jake Browning three (or more) seconds in a clean pocket. Unfortunately I just don't see them doing enough of that to provide many sustained drives.
Washington's defense and special teams should keep the Huskies in the game and prevent a blowout, but short of a major turnaround in turnover differential in this game, I just don't see them keeping up with USC over 60 minutes. Sark has had his surprising losses over the years, but those have almost always come on the road. With this game in the Coliseum I see Sark coming out on top: USC 31, Washington 17
No way around it. USC has better athletes than the Huskies at this point. While I'd like to say this stays close, the ASU game showed how good Sark's new team can be. USC 36, Washington 21
Not excited about this one. Sark's teams may usually be a trainwreck when they have to play up, but his teams almost always take care of business when they play a team they should easily beat, especially coming off of a bye week at home. The Husky defense will be able to hold back USC's speed on offense for a little while, but they won't get much help from their offense and the dam will burst in the second or third quarter. USC 42, Washington 17
After dropping a 50/50 game to Cal two weeks ago, the Huskies now face the prospect of needing to upset at least one team while chalking the remainder of the schedule to get to 6-6, bowl eligibility, and most importantly, 15 extra practices. Their first opportunity to do so comes tomorrow against former head coach Steve Sarkisian and his No. 17 USC Trojans; unfortunately, it is an opportunity I expect to see the Huskies squander.
In examining the various matchups in this game, I don't see any that decisively favor the Dawgs, particularly in terms of Washington's offense versus USC's defense. Jake Browning and his young offensive line against USC's pass rush; UW's undersized wide receivers facing Adoree' Jackson and Iman Marshall; Washington's 3.57 yards-per-attempt rushing attack versus, well, opponents who draw breath: Seems to me that it all adds up to a whole lot of three-and-outs, and continued frustration for the fans.
If there is anything that gives me hope of a Husky upset, it is the combination of Washington's defense being good enough to keep them in virtually any game, and Steve Sarkisian's uncanny ability to lose at least a couple of games each year that he has no business giving up. Combine those two factors, and I suppose anything is possible. However, it doesn't strike me as a good enough chance to merit calling for the upset. USC 27, Washington 13
It doesn't seem like that long ago since UW owned a 2 game winning streak against the USC Trojans. The Huskies won those games due to some Jake Locker/Erik Folk late game heroics, and some timely miscues and penalties on the part of the Trojans. If the Huskies are to notch the upset on Thursday night, they'll need the ball to bounce their way all night, so to speak. I think sometime during year two, when the process and systems are more in place, Coach Pete gets his first "signature win". Will it be against USC? The defense needs to be even better than it has been all season, the special teams needs to win field position all night, and the offense has to find a way to stay on the field and keep drives alive. If the offense scored a couple TDs, that would be nice, too. I can see the defense and special teams continuing their stellar play and keeping the Huskies in the game. However, I think the young offense will continue to struggle and won' t have their breakthrough game until later in the season. As expected for a true freshman making his first Pac-12 road start, Jake Browning will be hot and cold, and the rest of the offense will struggle to make plays in support. I see the Huskies keeping it close until the 4th quarter, when the Trojans pull away to win it 27-17.