Seattle, WA (Sports Network) - The Washington Huskies will face a ranked team
for the fourth time this season on Saturday when they take on No. 11 USC in a
Pac-12 Conference affair at CenturyLink Field in Seattle.
USC began the season as the nation's No. 1 team, but even with convincing
wins over Hawaii (49-10) and Syracuse (42-29), it was overtaken by Alabama for
the top spot. The Trojans' ranking plummeted following a 21-14 loss at
Stanford, but they have gotten back on track with two straight wins over
California (27-9) and Utah (38-28).
Washington got off to a fast 3-1 start, highlighted by an impressive win over
nationally-ranked Stanford on Sept. 27. That win bumped the Huskies up to No.
23 in the nation, although they promptly dropped out of the rankings following
last week's 52-21 loss to Oregon.
"Heck, when you drop punts, you throw a pick-six, you blow coverages against
good teams, you get beat," Washington head coach and former USC assistant
Steve Sarkisian said following the Oregon game. "You have to do everything
right, not some stuff right and not other things."
USC has a huge advantage in the all-time series with Washington, 49-28-4. The
rivalry has been closer over the past few decades however, as the teams have
played to a 9-9-1 tie in the last 19 games.
The Trojans offense has played well this season, tallying 34 ppg on more than
420 ypg, but those numbers are slightly underwhelming considering the massive
preseason hype surrounding the unit. It has also struggled on third down (20-
Heisman hopeful Matt Barkley is coming off one of his best games of the season
last Thursday against Utah, as he completed 23-of-30 passes for 303 yards and
three scores. Despite his solid year-to-date totals (.642 completion
percentage, 1,308 yards, 15 TDs, five INTs), he is on pace to fall short of
each of his career-best numbers which he logged last year as a junior (.691,
3,528 yards, 39 TDs, seven INTs).
Marqise Lee has emerged as Barkley's favorite target this season, as he leads
the conference in receptions (52), yards (649), and touchdowns (seven). He is
coming off a 12-catch, 192-yard performance against Utah, his third career
game with 190 yards or more. Robert Woods has been no slouch opposite Lee,
reeling in 31 balls for 272 yards and five scores.
After transferring from Penn State in the offseason, Silas Redd has taken over
as the Trojans' feature back with great success, carrying the ball 75 times
for 415 yards and five touchdowns. Curtis McNeal (33 carries, 225 yards) also
sports a solid yards-per-carry average.
Even though the USC defense gave up four touchdowns to a two-win Utah team a
week ago, on the season the unit has surrendered less than 20 ppg. It has been
especially solid in the run game, holding opponents to 112.6 ypg. However,
head coach Lane Kiffin is quick to temper any enthusiasm.
"We have not played the quality of quarterbacks that we had played in the
previous two years to this point," Kiffin said. "Before we make this statement
that, 'Boy, we've improved so much on defense,' we have to make sure we look
at the whole thing together."
A ball-hawking secondary has helped USC win the turnover battle with nine
interceptions, paced by three picks from Dion Bailey and a pair from Jawan
Morgan Breslin is a beast along the line of scrimmage, leading the team with
10.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks. Leonard Williams (six TFL, four sacks)
and George Uko (five TFL, three sacks) are also off to fast starts.
Washington's offense hasn't nearly been as impressive as the Trojans as it
scores less than 23 ppg while putting up just 321.2 ypg.
With 33 touchdown passes a year ago, Keith Price was one of the most feared
quarterbacks in the nation, but this season he has under-performed, completing
less than 60 percent of his passes for 882 yards with just five touchdowns
paired with four interceptions.
Bishop Sankey has helped pick up the slack for Price, rushing for 433 yards
and six touchdowns. He has tallied 100 yards rushing in three straight games,
with 25 carries for 104 yards and two touchdowns against Oregon.
Kasen Williams (31 receptions, 340 yards, three TDs) and Austin Seferian-
Jenkins (24 receptions, 254 yards, TD) have been reliable targets for Price,
but no other receiving has caught more than seven passes.
The Huskies defense (26.2 ppg, 352 ypg) has performed very well in the team's
three wins in allowing less than 13 points per game, but they have given up 41
and 52 points in a pair of losses.
Thomas Tutogi has 33 tackles, two tackles for loss, a sack, and a fumble
recovery. Andrew Hudson is the only player with double-digit sacks with two.
The Sports Network