This week’s marquee Pac-12 matchup comes from Seattle, Washington as USC tries to keep their championship hopes alive against Washington this Saturday.
No. 11 USC is currently second in the Pac-12 south at a 4-1 (2-1) record.
This is a team that had high expectations coming into the season after a two-year bowl ban put this talented team well under the radar last season.
Quarterback Matt Barkley has displayed flashes of brilliance throwing for 1308 yards and 15 TDs on the season.
In the Heisman candidate’s performance in last week’s Thursday night game against Utah, it was clear who the leader on the field was.
Barkley, who went 23-for-30 throwing with 303 yards and three TDs, looked sharp. He led USC to an 11-point comeback with a dominating fourth quarter performance. A ridiculous 83-yard touchdown pass to Marquise Lee and a Jon Hays interception return capped off a commanding 38-28 victory.
For USC to have similar success tomorrow against an underrated Huskies defense, they’re going to have to contain Washington’s balanced offensive attack.
Sophomore running back Bishop Sankey has been on a tear, rushing for over 100 yards in each of his last three games for Washington. His standout performance came against #8 Stanford rushing for 144 yards on 20 rushes and one TD, averaging 7.4 yards per carry.
The question for Washington comes at the quarterback position. Keith Price has lacked consistency in the passing game this season.
Price has throw one TD and three picks with only 322 total yards in his last two games.
Price needs to keep the turnovers to a minimum and distribute the ball to his running backs Bishop and freshman Erich Wilson II.
For Washington, it’s going to be the USC defense that will come between Washington collecting a victory tomorrow.
Their 19.4 points per game is good enough for third in the Pac-12 and has really been the biggest surprise of this Trojan team.
Sophomore sensation Dion Bailey has been the story on defense at linebacker this year with three interceptions and 35 tackles. His break-out performance came against Syracuse September 9, recording eight tackles and two interceptions.
Senior safety T.J. McDonald has been a tackling machine at safety for the Trojans averaging 7.4 a game.
Junior defensive end Morgan Breslin leads this Trojan defense with an impressive 5.5 sacks. When California came to the coliseum on September 22, Breslin had a career day with 3.5 sacks against standout quarterback Zach Maynard.
Washington has been tested this season with one of the hardest schedules in college football to this point. Playing three teams that all ranked in the top ten in the AP Poll in LSU, Stanford and Oregon, their 3-2 record speaks to how talented this team really is.
Their next big test against USC will mark their fourth game against a BCS Championship caliber squad.
This game will come down to defense and X-factor Matt Barkley. We have two great defensive teams in Washington and USC and running games that almost mirror each other.
It’s the quarterback position that really tips the scale in USC’s favor.
Look for Barkley to carve up the Washington secondary and throw for over 300 yards with at least 2 TDs.
Washington quarterback Keith Price has played poorly against ranked teams this season. In the 41-3 rout of Washington by LSU, Price threw for just 157 yards and had a QB rating of 78.3. In the win against Stanford, Price still struggled and against Oregon threw two interceptions.
Price will be under pressure all night from Breslin and is going to have to show some mobility in the pocket against the rush.
USC will beat Washington by two scores, but look for this Husky defense to put up a fight at home against Barkley and hold running back Silas Redd to under 50 yards.