If USC is to have any shot at playing for a National Championship they must win-out. Even if they accomplish that difficult goal, they will need a little help.
They certainly won't get that from Pac-12 opponent Washington. The Huskies are a talented, but young team. They are better than their 3-2 record would indicate. They will be looking to hand the Trojans their second conference loss, and to permanently remove them from the National Championship picture.
While remaining games with No. 2 ranked Oregon and No. 7 ranked Notre Dame may be enough to overcome their September 15 loss to Stanford. A loss to an unranked conference opponent would be insurmountable in USC's ultimate goal.
The Huskies would likely be ranked were it not for two lopsided losses to then No.3 ranked LSU and Oregon. They were outscored 93-24 in those games. The results of those two contests clearly prove the Huskies aren't on an elite level, but their Saturday clash with USC will tell us something about both teams.
A USC loss would mean the Trojans don't deserve to be mentioned in the same breath with Alabama or even Oregon. For Washington, a win represents growth and it should serve as a major confidence boost.
Here are the particulars for this matchup
When: Saturday, October 13, 7:00 p.m. ET
Where: CenturyLink Field in Seattle, Washington
Odds: USC is the favorite (-12) per Oddsshark.com
Southern Cal Trojans
Christian Thomas - TE - Questionable October 13 (hip)
Isiah Wiley - CB - Out For Season (academics)
DeVante Wilson - DE - Out For Season (knee)
Jesse Callier - RB - Out For Season (knee)
Deontae Cooper - RB - Out For Season (knee)
Hau'oli Jamora - DE - Out For Season (knee)
James Johnson - WR - Out Indefinitely (wrist)
Colin Tanigawa - G - Out For Season (knee)
There is a very outside chance the Huskies could reach consideration for a BCS bowl. They would have to win-out, and that would include a win here as well as a win over No. 10 ranked Oregon State on October 27.
It is a tall task that I'm not sure this young team can handle, but this game is the first step.
For the Trojans, every game for the rest of this season has to be do-or-die. They came into this season with lofty goals, and with standards that high, the margin for error is very slim.
USC Keys To Victory
Don't Abandon the Run
The Trojans have all-world QB Matt Barkley and an amazing set of receivers. It is easy to become too dependent on the pass. A balance in play calling will be important against Washington. Silas Redd is averaging 99.5 yards per game in Trojans' wins.
He had just 17 yards on 13 carries in the loss to Stanford.
The blueprint to an upset almost always includes turnovers. It was the case when Stanford knocked off USC earlier this season, and if the Trojans lose on Saturday, giveaways will be a factor.
Barkley had two interceptions against the Cardinals, and two more the following week against California. He played error free on Saturday in the team's come from behind win over Utah. However, the team still lost two fumbles.
Playing in a hostile environment like CenturyLink Field makes taking care of the ball even more imperative. A huge takeaway can send the home team on a run, and land the Trojans in trouble.
Washington Keys To Victory
Pound it on the Ground
The Huskies have a formidable rushing attack, and they must use it to slow the pace of this game. They can't win a high-scoring affair with USC. They simply don't have the talent at the skill positions.
Sophomore Bishop Sankey has had three straight 100-yard games. The Huskies will need him to keep his streak alive to have a shot at pulling the upset. Success on the ground combined with the crowd noise could apply pressure to the Trojans' offense.
That pressure could lead to turnovers.
Junior QB Keith Price isn't asked to throw for 300 yards and two touchdowns every game. That won't change in this contest, but he must take care of the ball and convert third downs.
If the Huskies find moderate success in the running game, Price and the offense should see a lot of third and short situations. He must lead his team to conversions by making smart and accurate passes.
He's only completed 59 percent of his passes this season, and he's thrown four interceptions. He'll need to be better if the Huskies want to win.
USC 35, Washington 20
A quick start from the Trojans will take the crowd out of the game, and Price won't be able to make the plays necessary to establish momentum for the Huskies. USC's hopes of climbing back into one of the top two spots will remain alive.
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