Friday, October 12, 2012

Washington Huskies host #11 USC Trojans

By Kshell

The Washington Huskies(3-2,1-1) led by former USC assistant Steve Sarkisian host his old team #11 USC Trojans(4-1,2-1) led by senior quarterback Matt Barkley. The Trojans began the year as the #1 ranked team but after losing to Stanford 21-14(who the Huskies beat immediately after) the Trojans are now turning their hopes on still winning their first conference championship since 2008. For the Huskies they are hoping to rebound from their embarrassing defeat last week to #2 Oregon 52-21. Sarkisian will take on his friend and former colleague at USC Lane Kiffin. Sarkisian is 2-1 all-time against his former team having pulled off the upset against #3 USC 16-13 in 2009 and again in 2010 defeating #18 USC down in the coliseum 32-31. Last year was a different story as #18 USC destroyed the Huskies 40-17 down in the coliseum. The Huskies who are currently 3-0 at home are hoping to extend the winning ways at home. In the last two years the Huskies are 9-1 at home.

Matt Barkley is looking to avoid being the first Trojan quarterback to lose to the Huskies twice in his career since Reggie Perry did in 1991 and 1992. Barkley has faced the Huskies twice in his career splitting the games. As a sophomore in 2010 Barkley was 14-20(70.0%) passing for 186 yards(9.3 YPA) as the Trojans lost 32-31. In 2011 as a junior Barkley fared much better completing 18-28(64.3%) of his passes for 174 yards(6.2 YPA) with a touchdown. He also ran for a touchdown as well as the Trojans won 40-17. This year Barkley is having a terrific season completing 111-173(64.2%) of his passes for 1,308 yards(7.6 YPA) with 15 touchdowns to only five interceptions. Barkley will be a top draft pick and will test the Huskies secondary which features future NFL corner Desmond Trufant.

Slumping junior quarterback Keith Price is taking on the team where he threw his first career touchdown pass against. In 2010 as a freshman, Jake Locker was injured for a moment. Trailing in the fourth quarter 28-23 the Huskies called on Price who threw the go ahead touchdown pass. In 2011 in the blowout loss to USC Price was 12-16(75.0%) passing for 125 yards(7.8 YPA) as he was sacked four times. That would be the only start for Price last year where he didn't throw a touchdown pass.

This year Price is struggling. His numbers on the year are 94-158(59.5%) passing for 882 yards(5.6 YPA) with only five touchdowns to four interceptions. Price like the rest of the Huskies offense just doesn't look the same at all which is a big reason why the offense is struggling so badly. Currently ranks 107th in the nation, the running game is 87th in the nation. The Huskies offense is 97th in the nation in scoring which includes 52 points against an FCS school. Against D-1 schools the Huskies are averaging only 15.5 points per game which is pathetic. That falls on Price as this match up heading into the year was supposed to be a battle of the two best quarterbacks in the conference.

The Trojans feature two wide receivers who are going to be first round picks in the NFL draft. Led by Marqise Lee who destroyed the Huskies last year. Lee had nine receptions for 74 yards with a touchdown. He also returned a kickoff for 88 yards for a touchdown as well. This year Lee is lighting up college football as he has 52 receptions for 649 yards(12.5 YPC) with seven touchdowns. He also returned a kickoff for 100 yards for a touchdown this year. He has done all that damage in five games by the way. So the Huskies easy solution is stick their NFL corner Desmond Trufant on him. Sounds simple enough right?

Except that heading into the year Lee was supposed to be the #2 receiver as Robert Woods was supposed to be the guy. Last year against the Huskies Woods wasn't a factor as he had just two receptions for five yards and was shutout the previous year. Still didn't stop Woods from catching 111 passes for 1,292 yards and 15 touchdowns last season. This year Woods has 31 receptions for 272 yards(8.8 YPC) with five touchdowns. He also has one carry for 76 yards. With Trufant only able to cover one guy look for them to pick on Tre Watson quite a bit. Shaq Thompson who plays a lot of linebacker lately might have to play more safety this game.

The Huskies feature a talented wide receiver in Kasen Williams. Last year against the Trojans Williams caught five passes for 44 yards with a touchdown. For the year Williams has 31 receptions for 340 yards(11.0 YPC) with three touchdowns. Williams is having a solid season for the Huskies.

The other talented player is tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins who is having a quiet conference season so far. Even with that he has 24 receptions for 254 yards(10.6 YPC) with a touchdown. Last year against USC he caught four passes for 48 yards. After those two there is a big drop off in production for the Huskies. DiAndre Campbell has six receptions for 51 yards with a touchdown. True freshman Jaydon Mickens who is from L.A. has seven receptions for 46 yards. The Huskies passing game hasn't gone over 200 yards in four straight games. They must get their passing game going to have any chance at the upset.

The Trojans have a nice 1-2 rushing attack going with Silas Redd the transfer from Penn State and Curtis McNeal. Redd on the season has rushed for 415 yards on 75 carries(5.5 YPC) with five touchdowns. Redd ran for 1,241 yards(5.1 YPC) with seven touchdowns last year for the 9-4 Nittany Lions.

The other back McNeal killed the Huskies last year as he ran for 148 yards on 18 carries(8.2 YPC) with a 79 yard touchdown run. This year McNeal has ran for 225 yards on 33 carries(6.8 YPC). The fact the Trojans have two excellent wide receivers to go with a top tier quarterback means teams load up to stop the pass. Which makes it even more difficult to defend as the Trojans have talented running backs who can beat you on the ground. Justin Wilcox is going to have his hands full in this game.

The Huskies running game is in good hands with Bishop Sankey. Last year Sankey against USC ran the ball four times for 22 yards(5.5 YPC) including a 17 yard run. He also had four receptions in that game as well. For the season Sankey has ran for 433 yards(4.9 YPC) with six touchdowns through five games. In the last three games Sankey has ran for 351 yards(117 yards per game) on 59 carries(5.9 YPC) with five touchdowns. The Huskies are hoping Sankey can continue that type of production as the Huskies milk the clock and shorten the game.

Backing up Sankey is Kendyl Taylor who has ran for 38 yards on nine carries(4.2 YPC) and has five receptions for 34 yards. Taylor began the year as the Huskies starting wide receiver. Erich Wilson has ran for 140 yards on 25 carries(5.6 YPC) with a touchdown. Dezden Petty has ran for 99 yards on 29 carries(3.4 YPC) as he is the short yardage back for the Huskies. The Huskies only shot at the upset is running the ball effectively which could lead to play action passing.

This will be the Trojans first trip to Seattle since being upset back in 2009 16-13 in a game which Barkley missed due to injury. The Huskies haven't beaten USC in back to back home trips since 1997 and 2001. Sarkisian upset his old team his first two years on the job and like the previous three times against his old team the Trojans are ranked again. Unlike the Stanford upset this win would be more impressive. Against the Cardinal the Huskies were allowed to have an eight man box and force Josh Nunes to beat them. In this game the Huskies will put Trufant on either Lee or Woods hoping he can contain them. Then obviously double team the other with safety Sean Parker playing over the top. Wilcox will have Thompson the #1 safety in the nation coming out of high school last year help out on the run which he has been great at all year long.

If the Huskies can somehow win this game that would put them at 4-2 and probably back in the rankings as they would defeat another ranked opponent. A loss here puts the Huskies at 3-3 as they face the second half of their schedule which they went 5-1 against those same teams last year. The Huskies must get their offense back together and in particular Keith Price who has been struggling badly. The Trojans defense let Josh Nunes look like a decent quarterback so perhaps there is hope for Price this week against the Trojans. If the Huskies were to pull off this upset they must pressure the Trojans offensive line which appears to be the only weakness for the Trojans offense. They had problems against Stanford and Utah's defensive line and the Huskies can only hope they have those same problems. This should be a big game for the Huskies as whenever Sarkisian takes on the Trojans it is always a huge game. This game has a bigger feel to it because this is the last "great" team on the Huskies schedule and with a win here the Huskies can start dreaming of big things for this season.

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