The USC Trojans will travel to Washington to take on the Washington Huskies in a Pac-12 showdown. No matchup will be as consequential to the outcome as that of the Trojans’ receivers against the good Huskies’ secondary.
USC once again features arguably the best receiving duo in the country.
Marqise Lee and Robert Woods both finished within the top 30 in receiving yards in 2011. Woods, a sophomore at the time, was the clear first option as he led Lee in receptions, yards and touchdowns. This surprised no one; Marqise Lee was a freshman.
The roles seem to be reversed in 2012.
Lee has caught 52 balls for 649 yards and seven touchdowns, all of which are among the best in the FBS. Woods, though, has been far from removed from the offense. He has 31 receptions and 272 yards. His five touchdowns are 13th best in the country.
Thankfully, Washington’s secondary has been superb through the first five weeks of the season. They have allowed 173.8 yards through the air—an average that is second best in the Pac-12 and No. 13 in the nation.
A large part of this success has been due to their exceptional senior cornerback, Desmond Trufant. Trufant has been starting at CB since his freshman year. He sealed Washington’s upset win against Stanford with a red-zone pick on the Cardinal’s last drive.
Trufant will probably see his assignment change throughout the game, as he moves back and forth from Lee and Woods. At 6’0”, he will be sacrificing only an inch against either of USC’s top receivers.
Who else can be reliable for the Huskies?
They will ask Tre Watson to be, although I am not sure what they can realistically expect from the undersized cornerback. Look for Matt Barkley to consistently go after the 5’9” Junior.
Washington will also need their freshman cornerback, Marcus Peters, to have the best game of his collegiate career. Peters’ responsibilities and playing time have varied over the year, but he did come up with an interception on September 15.
Washington’s success defending the pass has been about more than just their corners. Safeties Sean Parker and Justin Glenn have been huge for Washington so far this year.
Problems could arise for Washington, however, if Parker and Glenn are asked to do too much. It’s not as if USC is a one-dimensional offense. The Trojans have rushed for 158 yards per game.
Nobody on the defense, especially the safeties, will be able to focus solely on the pass. Parker and Glenn are both good tacklers—they combined for 15 tackles last week—and will need to split their efforts Saturday night.
Another problem involves a Trojan yet to be mentioned—tight end Xavier Grimble. With the health of Randall Telfer in doubt, expect Barkley to send at least half-a-dozen balls in the direction of Grimble.
Grimble has only 133 yards on the year, but needs a mere 12 yards against Washington to surpass his season total from 2011. At 6’5”, Grimble will be a difficult assignment for whoever draws the short straw.
The Huskies may have held Marcus Mariota to 198 passing yards last week, but they did allow 71 yards and two touchdowns to the Oregon tight end, Colt Lyerla.
This game should be one of the week’s best. Washington will need to respect USC’s running game, but in doing so will give USC a few opportunities for big pass plays. Their ability to make the most of them will determine the outcome.