Washington faces off against USC at Husky Stadium in a nationally televised 5 pm game on ABC. Washington took the Trojans to the last tick of the clock last year on the road, and are hoping they can finish the deal this year at home. Both teams are improved from last year, but the growth curve is much sharper at USC.
When Washington has the ball
Washington needs a much better performance this week to stick with the high flying Trojans. That will be a tough order to fill against one of the nations top defenses. UW needs to find a way to get their running game going, and also heat up Jake Lockers throwing arm in the first quarter. Last weeks performance by Locker in the fourth quarter could be an omen of things to come.
USC is going to do what the past three opponents have tried to do, and that is shut down the Washington running game and pinch the corners so Locker can't get lose. USC has an incredible defensive line led by Sedrick Ellis, and Center Juan Garcia is going to have to play the best game of his career to keep him under control. USC relies on the front 3-4 to get pressure on the quarterback while the linebackers have contain responsibilities. The line is so good that he LB's can just sit back, and play cleanup, while the DB's concentrate on stopping the pass. USC despite losing two of it's starting CB's still has one of the best defensive backfields in the country. Free safety Taylor Mays is just a freak. The kid has the size of an inside linebacker, but possesses 4.25 speed.
UW needs to be different this week despite Lappano's vow to simplify things. UW must give the Trojans some looks that they haven't seen on tape yet to keep them on their toes. That means some misdirection, and stretching the field early with the passing game to open up running plays for Locker, and Rankin. The TE's have been absent all year, but plays over the middle are going to be there for the very brave.
TE's, and Fullbacks are remarkable stealth weapons, because the Trojans focus won't be on them. Problem is Washington is using them to block to make up for deficiencies in the offensive line. UW desperately needs to get them integrated in the game plan this week.
Jake Locker hasn't been a fast starter this year when it has come to passing the ball. One reason has been the placement of his feet which has resulted in some high, or inaccurate throws. The other reason is he is just amped up when he hits the field in the first quarter. UW needs to find a away to get him some high percentage tosses early. The Huskies can't be in early third, and long situations this week if they want to compete four quarters. Louis Rankins needs to pick up some yards.
When USC has the ball
USC does everything well currently on offense. Booty is a Heisman candidate type QB who has improved quite a bit from last season, and he is surrounded be a stable of former HS All American running backs and wide receivers. In front of him is one of the best offensive lines on the country.
The Trojan RB's can't be brought down with the type of tackling UW had last week. They love to hit, and spin to break tackles. They also don't get tired as the game goes on because Carroll can rotate up to eight All Americans at you all day. Stripping the ball is key because while this group is talented, they have a tendency to leave it on the turf.
The Trojans are going to come at the Huskies with a lot of balance, letting their athletes take over, and make plays. USC has no problem starting fast, and they have buried all three of their opponents in the first half this year. USC is going to try to stretch the field from the get go and test the Husky cornerbacks. SC looks at this game as a stepping stone for bigger games down the road, and they want to take a big step maturing their offense for those big upcoming tests.
USC does have one weakness, and that is a propensity to turn the ball over. It hasn't hurt them yet because they have been able to overwhelm each opponent, but it can be an equalizer against a quality opponent such as Oregon, California, or LSU. USC is still young on offense, and finding their way. If UW can force turnovers that turn into scores they may be able to surprise the Trojans.
Willingham said that "we probably had as many missed tackles as we've had in a while. That showed up in some of the big plays, that was part of the kickoff return, the long run. We had some opportunities to make that play and we didn't make them, and we've got to put them in a great place structurally as a coach.'' UW needs to do a much better job of preparing their players this week.
Washington needs to get pressure on the QB, and take advantage of turnover opportunities. No more dropped interception opportunities. You hang on to one last year and UW beats USC. Most importantly they need to do a better job than they did last week against the rushing game. If a crippled UCLA team can put up 41 points on Washington just think what USC is capable of?
Washington will be honoring it's 1960 National Championship team at halftime which will fire up the crowd going into the third quarter. Hopefully it will fire up the players. I am talking the 18-20 year old players, not the 65 year old players.
USC linebacker's Chris Galippo, and Brian Cushing will be sitting this one out with injuries. USC CB's Cary Harris, and Vincent Joseph are also likely to sit the game out. Safety Josh Pinkard is out for the second season in a row. USC isn't as banged up as UCLA, but they have some problems here, and there that will limit what they can do.
John David Booty, on whether USC has a go-to receiver."(David Ausberry) the other day, he made catches," Booty said. "They're all really talented. We were not doing a whole lot with the passing game. We haven't opened it up like last season."
Carroll admitted being concerned about USC's turnover ratio.``It's not the way I'd like. If I knew (how to end it), I'd stop it,'' he said.
Washington coach Ty Willingham on USC.“Honestly, I don’t know if there is a lot more that can be added to their resume. Obviously, they are a very good football team and at the top of the national polls this year, last year and it seems like almost forever now. They play very well. They play very aggressive. They are well-coached. It is a good football team.”
Willingham said the three-way battle at the one CB spot (Mosley, Davenport, McDowell) will be looked at all week before a decision is made. I'd assume Davenport to start but that it will be officially a game time decision.
Ken Baer said he thought all five of the bad UCLA plays were "very correctable. ... I think it was kind of a mental lapse for whatever reason. ... I just think it was almost to a point where you watched it and it was like 'I'm shocked.' But those things happen. The more veteran you are as a football team, we are veteran with our down four but not real veteran everywhere else, those mistakes come way less probably. And it's not just one guy, it's across the board. Maybe that's good news and bad news, I don't know.''
We hear tailback C.J. Gable is scheduled to get some carries against Washington on Saturday (no promises). By the way, USC coach Pete Carroll said Tuesday he still did not know who would start against the Huskies. Our hunch says Chauncey Washington.
"Jake Locker has just lit it up for a redshirt freshman -- as good a first showing, first four or five games, as a guy could have," Carroll said. "They know they have a great one in this kid. He's not a normal freshman out there playing."
Keith Rivers practiced at strongside linebacker Tuesday with Brian Cushing out. Rivers job will likely be to shadow Jake Locker. Rivers is rated as the top OLB in the country. If he gets hurt USC fans don't have to worry because the guy behind is probably almost as good.
"We're probably going to give Louis some rest time a little bit," offensive coordinator Tim Lappano said Tuesday. "With who, right now, I don't know. But I will say that we will probably have a little different rotation in there".
"We're still a very young offensive football team that's trying to figure things out," USC offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian said. "Outside of the quarterback (John David Booty) and the left tackle (Sam Baker), we're still a very young offensive team.
Tim Lappano comments that throwing deeper more at the end of the UCLA game was in part of a result of added confidence in QB Jake Locker to make those throws and that the success doing that could mean more of those types of plays this week. "That's the kid growing, that's growth, me trusting him to make some of those types of lower percentage throws,'' Lappano said. "If you're throwing it in practice, then you're able to throw them in the game, if not then you are reluctant to let loose with some of that stuff. We're seeing some pretty good throws in practice.''
Why Washington will win
Washington will in if USC self destructs, and turns over the ball giving the Husky offense a short field all day. UW proved they could move the ball on USC last year, but they have to take advantage of all their opportunities in the red zone.
You need to root for USC to come out flat, over confident, and be overwhelmed by the noise of Husky Stadium. The Trojans are still young, and this is a game they are possibly overlooking.
Locker needs to hit the big plays early this week just like he did in the fourth quarter against UCLA. He also needs some early help with his running game so Washington isn't always facing third and long. UW needs to show the Trojans something new, something tricky, something they haven't see yet on film.
Washington's special teams need to step up this week. I can't remember when Washington last won a special teams battle. Washington needs to win the special teams battle against a deep team with much better athletes. No more fumbles, blocked FG's, and long returns please!
Defensively the Huskies must control the run, and they can't afford to give up big plays. Booty is the straw that stirs the drink for the Trojan offense. The Huskies need to get into the Trojan backfield, and pressure him into mistakes. Booty is quite average when he is running for his life.
Why USC will win
USC will win by simply being USC.
The Washington offense will have a lot of trouble with the Trojan defense which means the Husky defense will be out on the field too much, just like last week. Washington will put up a fight, but USC will wear them down as the game goes on as they rotate in an out their bevy of All American players.
USC is going to go for the throat early, and that means they are going to go long against our cornerbacks and stretch the field. A big key to the game will be our ability to stop the long ball. USC doesn't like the underdog to stay around too long, they have seen all the film of Washington they need to see, so don't expect them to wait like UCLA, and Ohio State did. USC will strike first, deep, and often.
USC simply has the best collection of athletes in the country, and while you may be able to stay with them for a half they don't get tired, they are deep, and they know how to win. You are talking about a team that possibly has 30-40 future NFL players on it's roster. One look at the current UW roster reveals maybe 4-5. Of those 4-5 how many are seniors?
What do I think?
I think we are going to have a problem keeping USC under 50 points. This edition of USC is not only one of the best teams in the country, but it may be one of the top five teams of the decade. The Trojans Achilles heal is turning the ball over, and they will have to do that quite a bit to keep the Huskies in the game.
USC has an outstanding defense, but I think Locker and company will find a way to put some points on the board to make it respectable, but as the game goes on USC will just wear the Huskies out.
All that being said I am pretty sure Washington is the best team the Trojans have played so far this year, and they never play all that well in Husky Stadium. Upsets do happen, but I think this Husky team, and especially Jake Locker are a little too young to do it this year. As I said earlier in the week if we can come out of this one respectable, and healthy it will go a long way in determining our record at the end of the season.
I am predicting USC to win 44-21, but I am also predicting a close first half with the Huskies still in the game when they hit the field for the third quarter. What Washington does in that third quarter is going to determine the final outcome.
Do the Huskies even have a chance? Sure they do, they were a play, or two away from beating these guys last year on the road last season. Stanback had his way with these guys last year, and Jake has the potential to do it again this year. This could also be a week that a young USC team has an emotional let down of sorts on the road. It happens to the very best of teams.