Husky Football: USC Pregame Preview and Prediction


The Huskies looked so bad against Oregon. But, they looked almost as bad against LSU, and that didn’t stop them from looking like a totally different team against Stanford. This team struggles against elite teams on the road. They aren’t capable of going into a hostile environment and beating a top-3 team. But that doesn’t mean they can’t beat a very good opponent at home.

Make no mistake about it, USC is talented. But they are not Oregon. Not even close. In my opinion, they will be beaten badly by the Ducks. The Trojans are 4-1, with the one loss coming against Stanford, the only ranked opponent they have played this entire season. Somehow, they have still looked pretty damn sloppy from time to time against opponents many expected them to slaughter. In particular, the 38-28 win over Utah last week comes to mind.

It really is worth pointing, once again, to the strength of schedule. USC has played Hawaii, Syracuse, Stanford, Cal, and Utah. Those opponents have a combined record of 11-15. Washington’s opponents so far this season have a combined record of 20-9. That means that Washington has faced teams superior to USC, and specific position groups or players that are superior to everything that the Trojans bring to the table, except for Matt Barkley, the best quarterback the Huskies will play this year, and the duo of Marqise Lee and Robert Woods, the best receivers in the country.

USC, on the other hand, has not faced a secondary as talented as the Washington unit. They have not played in an environment as hostile and loud as CenturyLink will be on Saturday, though playing at Stanford may have been close. Generally speaking, they just haven’t played a lot of good teams, and one time they did, they looked pretty bad and lost.

Oct 4, 2012; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Southern California Trojans receiver Marqise Lee (9) is defended by Utah Utes safetry Eric Rowe (18) on an 83-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter at Rice-Eccles Stadium. USC defeated Utah 38-28. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-US PRESSWIRE

Opponents to Watch

Robert Woods

Woods has not had nearly the season that his teammate, Marqise Lee, has had, and that is why I’m talking about him here. Desmond Trufant will do his best to take Lee out of the game, and though he will probably end up covering Woods as well from time to time, that focus on Lee will probably leave Woods to go up against lesser defenders. Don’t be surprised if Barkley targets him a lot more, and don’t be shocked if he has a bigger game than his suddenly higher-profile teammate.

T.J. McDonald

If you’ve heard of one Trojan defender, it’s probably this senior safety. He’s in on a whole lot of plays, demonstrated by his nine tackles in three straight games, and he’s capable of making a big play at any time. Keep an eye out for him. You shouldn’t have to wait long to notice him flying around.

Keys to Victory

Give Bishop Sankey the Ball

He needs 20+ carries. He has earned it, and he has shown that if he gets the ball, he will get you 100 yards and a touchdown or two. If he can do it against Stanford and Oregon, there is no reason to guess he can’t do it against USC. The offensive line has opened up better holes for him the past few weeks, and with another week free of new injuries to gel, it’s reasonable to expect that should seem a little improved over last week.

Step Up, Price

If Keith Price is going to snap out of whatever has plagued him this year and have a big game throwing the ball, it might as well be now. At home, against a defense that is good but not quite elite, with his offensive line finally getting some form of continuity, he should get an opportunity to succeed. It is time for him to seize that chance.

Sept 27, 2012; Seattle, WA, USA; Washington Huskies quarterback Keith Price (17) scrambles out of the pocket against the Stanford Cardinal during the second quarter at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-US PRESSWIRE

In Wilcox I Trust

Obviously the Oregon game was not a defensive victory for the Huskies. Yet, just like the LSU game, things started out well. It was not until the offense started handing the ball to Oregon with great field position that the Ducks began to put up big points, and after that, things just got out of hand. USC is not a football riddle that needs solving. They have a great quarterback, and the ability to run the ball, but they do not have a lightning fast pace, outrageously quick skill players, and a quarterback that is a constant threat to scramble for first downs and touchdowns. With that in mind, I expect Justin Wilcox to craft a defensive approach that will give his defenders a chance to feed off the energy of the crowd, execute, and thrive.

Numbers I Expect to See

2: Interceptions thrown by Matt Barkley. Yes, I keep calling interceptions. But this just makes good sense. Barkley has thrown multiple picks against both Stanford and Cal, and neither of those teams has the talent and athleticism of the Husky defensive backs. Shaq Thompson, Sean Parker, and Desmond Trufant are all capable of making great plays on the ball, and I trust that they will.

122: The oddly specific number of rushing yards I expect from Bishop Sankey. He’s proven himself to be reliable and powerful, and I don’t think that the USC defensive front is any more capable than Stanford or Oregon of shutting him down. The Huskies need to ride him and allow the presence of a running threat to open up play action options for Price.

2: Sacks I expect the Husky offensive line to allow. This group is improving quickly, and if you really watch, Price was protected pretty well against a skilled Oregon pass rush. I don’t expect his jersey to be totally clean at the end of the night, but I think he’ll get his chance to play well.

Sep 1, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans safety T.J. McDonald (7) during the game against the Hawaii Rainbows at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. USC defeated Hawaii 49-10. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-US PRESSWIRE


I was wrong to think the Huskies had a chance against Oregon, that much is clear. But the stakes in this game are incredibly high. A win here proves that the Washington, while not yet elite, has taken a step forward and is able to knock out talented teams. The forecast calls for heavy rain on Saturday, and the crowd will be much more robust than even the Stanford game. The stadium will shake with noise when Barkley takes his snaps, and the UW defense will be hungry to prove that they are not the same unit that showed up in Eugene last week. On offense, Bishop Sankey will be fighting for every yard, and Keith Price will want desperately to prove that he is still the man that put up such massive numbers last year.

Why do I paint this picture? Because I think this Husky team is tougher. The one other time this Trojan team has truly had to fight for victory, they came up short. I’m not going to say that Washington “wants it more.” That is a ridiculous sports cliche. Everyone on that field will want to win, and will fight for it, but I believe that the Huskies are more capable of grinding out a victory. I haven’t seen that toughness from USC, and I don’t think we will see it Saturday.

UW 28, USC 24