GAME SNAPSHOT KICKOFF: Saturday, 8 ET GAMEDATE: 10/2/10 SITE: Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, Calif. SURFACE: Grass TV: ESPN2 SERIES: USC leads 49-27-4 (last meeting, 2009, Washington 16-13) RECORDS: Washington 1-2, 0-0; USC 4-0, 1-0. POLLS: USC (18 AP) PREDICTION: USC 35-14
KEYS TO THE GAME:
-- The Huskies simply must tackle better. They missed numerous tackles in the loss to Nebraska and now face a power running team in USC. Offensively, they need to take advantage of USC's biggest weakness -- pass defense. That means QB Jake Locker must be accurate with his throws, and the line must give him time to get them off.
-- Washington has had two weeks to prepare for USC after suffering a 56-21 loss to Nebraska. USC doesn't have a secondary like the Corhhuskers have, but the Trojans will be looking to change up their looks and confuse QB Jake Locker as much as possible. He's still prone to poor judgment on some of his throws. He's also capable of winning the game with his arm and his legs, so USC has to try to rattle him early.
SCOUTING THE TEAMS:
-- In no game yet will Washington probably hue closest to its general philosophy of using the run to set up the play-action pass, specifically deep passes, than against the Trojans. USC's secondary is vulnerable and UW should finally have its full complement of receivers with WR James Johnson returning to health. That will require a bounce-back game from QB Jake Locker, who was just 4-of-20 against Nebraska. Figure UW to also throw a number of possession-type passes early in the game to try to get Locker some confidence early.
Washington's defense is coming off the worst game of the Steve Sarkisian era after allowing 56 points and 533 yards against Nebraska. UW coaches hope improved tackling will help -- and that will be put to the test against a USC team that is averaging 281 yards rushing per game. USC is sure to try to establish dominance in its running game and use that to set up Matt Barkley's throws -- a familiar strategy to its own given the fact that Sarkisian and USC coach Lane Kiffin have similar philosophies.
USC's strength so far has been a running attack that features a number of tailbacks, including Allen Bradford, Dillon Baxter and Marc Tyler and fullback Stanley Havili, who is plenty dangerous as a single back. The Trojans and will take aim at a Washington unit that is among the worst against the run, yielding 213.67 yards per game. QB Matt Barkley hasn't been prolific, but he has been proficient.
Coach Lane Kiffin said he has seen gradual improvement on defense after a near-debacle in the opener at Hawaii, and he added that the unit is getting healthier, too. The Trojans don't have the depth they used to have, but their front-line athletes are still pretty good, and they have gotten good play from true freshman CB Nickell Robey. USC has allowed only 970 yards in the past three games against Virginia, Minnesota and Washington State.
Huskies: Washington has not won a regular-season game in Los Angeles since 1996, a victory over USC in the Coliseum. UW did win the 2001 Rose Bowl in Pasadena, beating Purdue. ... The Huskies have been shut out in two of their last three trips to USC -- 38-0 in 2004 and 56-0 in 2008. Those are the only two times UW has been shut out since 1981. ... LB Mason Foster leads the Pac-10 and is third in the nation in tackles with 12.67 per game. ... WR Jermaine Kearse leads the Pac-10 and is sixth in the nation in receiving yards (112.67 ypg). ... The Huskies have made eight trips inside an opponent's 20-yard and come away with six touchdowns and two field goals, giving them a 100 percent success rate in the Red Zone. Opponents are having similar success, going 10-of-10 with six TDs. ... Jake Locklear is Washington's all-time leader in rushing by a quarterback with 1,654 yards. ... He is right at 6,000 yards passing and is third all-time behind Cody Pickett (10,220) and Brock Huard (6,391).
Trojans: USC has a 32-game winning streak in home night games, although that streak was officially reduced to 16 because of vacated wins due to NCAA sanctions. ... USC coach Lane Kiffin's strong friendship with Washington coach Steve Sarkisian is one of the sidebars to this week's matchup at the Coliseum. Kiffin said that he had sent a couple of text messages to Sarkisian early in the week, but that the Huskies coach had not responded. Sarkisian said during the Pac-10 coaches call that wasn't true. ... Kiffin is trying to become the third coach in USC history to start his career 5-0. The others were Harvey Jones (1904) and Jess Hill (1951). ... The Trojans are averaging 218.5 yards per game rushing, 21st in the nation. They have rushed for more than 230 yards in three of their last four games. ... USC is second in the Pac-10 in rush defense, allowing only 107.2 ypg, but is only ninth in pass defense in giving up 282.2 ypg. ... Six true freshmen have played for USC this season, including two (WR Robert Woods and CB Nickell Robey) who have started. Robey returned an interception 35 yards for a touchdown at Washington State and added another interception to become the first true freshman with two picks for USC since Mike Salmon in 1990 against Arizona State. ...
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
QB Jake Locker -- All eyes again will be on Locker, though this time for a different reason. He's no longer a Heisman favorite with fans now wondering how he will respond to the worst game of his college career, a 4-for-20 outing against Nebraska. UW coach Steve Sarkisian has said he'll try to get Locker some rhythm going early in the game with some high-percentage throws.
WR Jermaine Kearse -- Kearse was being touted as one of the top receivers in the country before being held to two catches by Nebraska's secondary, which pressed him at the line of scrimmage and took him out with physical play. He'll be more in his element again against a shaky USC secondary, however, and could have a big day.
MLB Cort Dennison -- The junior returns after missing the Nebraska game with a concussion. Husky coaches feel he is one of the smartest players on the team and settles down the defense. He'll be a key figure in stopping USC's power running game and will need to be a sure tackler.
SS Nate Williams -- The senior will be a key in defending the run but also will need to serve as a last line of defense when USC tries to go vertical, which it is sure to do against a UW secondary allowing teams to complete 56.8 percent of their passes.
QB Matt Barkley -- He has appeared to be in much more command as a sophomore, ranking 14th nationally in passing efficiency with a rating of 166.65. He has completed 71 of 109 passes for 941 yards, with 12 touchdowns and four interceptions.
CB Shareece Wright -- The senior hasn't been challenged all that much because a true freshman, Nickell Robey, is on the other side. But he'll have to be ready, because Washington has a big-play threat in Jermaine Kearse, who has five touchdown receptions in three games.
FB Stanley Havili -- An always underrated threat, Havili got notice last week for his 59-yard touchdown run against Washington State. He excels in all areas -- blocking, running and catching the ball.
LB Cort Dennison (concussion, probable), WR James Johnson (ankle, probable), LB Victor Aiyewa (concussion, probable).
DT Armond Armstead (shoulder, probable), DE Wes Horton (back, day-to-day).