With both teams' Pac-12 championship dreams hanging in the balance, the USC Trojans and Washington Huskies will desperately vie for a victory in an inter-conference clash on Saturday.
The Trojans come in riding high after a scintillating comeback in their 38-28 victory over Utah. That win not only vaulted USC to a No. 11 ranking, but also kept the team's thin national championship hopes alive.
Looking to dash those hopes is a Washington squad that got eviscerated 52-21 by second-ranked Oregon. The Huskies have flailed offensively all season, but have a top-notch defense that could give Trojans quarterback Matt Barkley fits.
With that in mind, here is a look at everything you need to know about Saturday's contest.
When: Saturday, Oct. 13 at 7:00 p.m. ET
Where: CenturyLink Field in Seattle, Wash.
Stream: Trojans All-Access
Betting Line: USC (-12.5), according to Vegas Insider
USC Injuries (via USA Today)
TE Randall Telfer, Ankle, Questionable
RB Silas Redd, Undisclosed, Questionable
RB Curtis McNeal, Concussion, Questionable
TE Christian Thomas, Hip, Questionable
CB Brian Baucham, Lung, Out
DE Devon Kennard, Pectoral, Out
DE DeVante Wilson, Knee, Out for Season
Washington Injuries (via USA Today)
OL Ben Riva, Arm, Questionable
DT Lawrence Lagafuaina, Leg, Out for Season
OL Colin Tanigawa, Knee, Out for Season
OL Erik Kohler, Leg, Out
RB Jessie Callier, Knee, Out for Season
DE Hau'oli Jamora, Knee, Out for Season
WR James Johnson, Wrist, Out
LB Cooper Pelluer, Shoulder, Out for Season
RB Deontae Cooper, Knee, Out for Season
BCS/Top 25 Implications
After coming into the season with the No. 1 ranking, the Trojans have done just about everything they can to soil that preseason perch.
As it stands, USC would need a ton of help from the remaining unbeatens and to leapfrog LSU in the rankings to make the BCS championship game.
Nonetheless, with a matchup against No. 2 Oregon still on the slate, anything is possible for Lane Kiffin's squad. A loss here, however, likely ends even a shot at the Rose Bowl for the Trojans.
For the Huskies, their destruction at the hands of the Ducks last week was an understandable death knell to their Top 25 position. Nevertheless, as a team still on the voters' minds, they could easily sneak back in with an upset on Saturday.
What They're Saying
With the Trojans defense struggling against the pass this season, there have been countless suggestions on how to fix the team's woes. The most notable of which recently came from wide receiver Marqise Lee, who tried to convince Kiffin to play him on both sides of the ball.
"He continued to try and convince me . . . that he could physically play all the snaps on offense and defense and be physically fine," said Kiffin (via the Los Angeles Times' Gary Klein).
While USC tries to solve its issues in pass defense, Washington is desperately trying to fix its passing game. Quarterback Keith Price has gone out of his way to take most of the blame, but head coach Steve Sarkisian said that the signal-caller is simply putting too much pressure on himself.
Via the Seattle Times' Bob Condotta:
(He's) probably put too much pressure on himself to try to make everybody else right around him, rather than keeping the focus on himself and allowing us to fix the things that are going on around him. That's hopefully what we can get him back to. But to do that, everyone else has to do their jobs really well.
USC Player to Watch: QB Matt Barkley
With top running backs Silas Redd and Curtis McNeal both listed on the Trojans' injury report, the onus will be on Barkley more than ever to shine on Saturday.
After two straight underwhelming performances, the Heisman hopeful dominated last week against Utah, completing 23-of-30 passes for 303 yards and three touchdowns.
Unfortunately for the Trojans, Barkley will face possibly his toughest test of 2012 against a Washington defense that has allowed just 173.8 passing yards per game, which is the second-best rate in the Pac-12.
Last season against the Huskies, the USC quarterback put up one of his worst performances of the year, throwing for just 174 yards in a victory.
Considering the senior's poor play against Stanford and Cal, you have to be at least a little skeptical with the Trojans heading into what should be a raucous crowd at CenturyLink Field.
Washington Player to Watch: QB Keith Price
While Price's struggles have undoubtedly hurt the Huskies' offensive attack, we know from the signal-caller's performance last season that the talent is there.
With a far superior supporting cast, Price put up 3,063 yards and 33 touchdowns with just 11 interceptions in 2011. The Compton native had nine different games where he threw multiple touchdowns and looked to be making a claim for the Pac-12's top quarterback spot.
Things just have gone rapidly downhill this season. The junior has just one multi-touchdown game in 2012—a three-touchdown effort against Portland State, an FCS school.
Price will undoubtedly have a chance to right the ship on Saturday. The Trojans have failed to find a consistent answer at the second cornerback spot behind Nickell Robey and will continue experimenting this week.
That could mean big things for Price if he takes advantage.
Key Matchup: USC DE Morgan Breslin vs. Washington Offensive Line
For Price to have any chance at succeeding against the Trojans, he will have to get far more time in the pocket than he has thus far.
Washington's offensive line has been mired by injuries even dating back to the spring and it's taken a massive toll on the passing game.
Looking to take advantage of those injuries and get to Price will be a USC defensive line led by Breslin, who has emerged as a breakout star this season. The 6'2" junior has recorded 5.5 sacks on the season and has become a menace behind the line of scrimmage for opposing running backs as well.
How he performs on Saturday almost certainly holds the key to whether Washington can even make this a close contest.
We've seen USC consistently play closer-than-expected games against less talented teams all season, so expect this to be no different.
Nonetheless, the Trojans have pulled out victories in most of those games and should use their talent advantage to come out on top against Washington.
Score Prediction: USC 34, Washington 27
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