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USC-Washington Preview: What To Watch For

Can Washington contain USC's aerial assault? Plus, four other burning questions to watch for when the Trojans take on Washington.

Stephen Dunn - Getty Images

In 2009, Matt Barkley, a young freshman pup, stood on the sideline and watched Washington's Jake Locker lead the Huskies on a game-winning drive, setting up Nick Folk for a 22-yard field goal as time expired. Barkley, out with a shoulder injury, could make no contributions that day. Instead, he was forced to watch his replacement Aaron Corp struggle mightily in his only start at USC.

Barkley will get an opportunity to make amends this Saturday when the Trojans travel to Seattle to take on the Huskies at CenturyLink Field.

Here are five burning questions to watch for as USC squares off with Washington:

1. "On The Road Again": How will USC handle the potentially rowdy CenturyLink environment?

Last Thursday, USC got a taste of a loud stadium in Utah, but CenturyLink Field has the potential to be the loudest stadium the Trojans will play in all season. During the fourth quarter of Washington's upset of Stanford, some reporters claimed the stadium was just as loud, if not louder than, as when the Seahawks are playing, which is saying something since the 12th man in Seattle is routinely one of the loudest in the NFL.

2. "Blitzkrieg Bop": Can Washington's secondary contain the USC passing game?

Washington has talent in the defensive secondary. Desmond Trufant will likely move to an NFL secondary next year, joining two older brothers who are both currently defensive backs in the league. Sean Parker and Shaq Thompson were All-American safeties coming out of high school. Thompson was the rated the consensus No. 1 safety in the 2012 recruiting class and the Huskies top-rated recruit.

The talent is there...but the Huskies have yet to face the talent USC's passing game possesses. Barkley to Woods. Barkley to Lee. Sure the Trojans have other offensive weapons, but it really comes down to whether Washington can put the clamps on Barkley's two top-tier outside threats. Thompson has started in the nickel position each game. It will be an interesting matchup when Woods and Lee line up on the same side. Will the freshman look like a freshman or have a breakout game on a national scene?

3. "Will You Love Me Tomorrow?": Does Lane Kiffin or Steve Sarkisian take the series lead?

Lane Kiffin and Steve Sarkisian, both former assistants at USC under Pete Carroll, are close friends, but on game day, all bets are off. Though they say they talk often, the young head coaches say that things change in the week leading up to their head-to-head matchups. Sarkisian took the first two games against USC as a head coach -- both on last second field goals. But Kiffin and the Trojans struck back last year with a 40-17 drubbing. If there's any team Kiffin wants to beat for personal bragging rights, I would guess it is Washington. No one wants to lose to his/her friends.

4. "Who'll Stop The Rain?": Will the weather affect either team?

There is currently a 60 percent chance of precipitation in Seattle on Saturday. USC has dealt with wet conditions and even did it in an NFL stadium earlier this season when the Trojans beat Syracuse at MetLife Stadium. But Lane Kiffin decided the team needed more practice in wet conditions. On Thursday, he turned the sprinklers on during practice to try to simulate the wet conditions.

Washington is obviously more adept to playing in the rain since it rains in Seattle every other day, but which team is better suited? On a muddy, sloppy field, teams are forced to run the ball due to the inability of players to get footing. But on field turf, a quick passing offense can dominate in the rain because receivers get better footing than defenders because they know where and when they are going to cut. CenturyLink has field turf. Advantage Trojans.

5. "I'm In A Hurry (And Don't Know Why)": Will Keith Price have any time to throw?

Washington has had to completely revamp its offensive line. Four of the five projected starters coming into the spring suffered significant injuries -- three of those projected starters aren't even on the depth chart. The Huskies have tried several different combinations, but the only consistency they've seen has been pressure on Price. Last season, Price set school records for touchdown passes, completion percentage and pass efficiency. This season, his numbers are way down and it all starts with the constant harassment he has received.

Last week, Washington actually started the same offensive line for back-to-back games for the first time this season and the Huskies feel like the unit is starting to come together. It will be the task of Morgan "Silent Assassin" Breslin, Leonard Williams and Wes Horton to disrupt any offensive rhythm Washington may have found in the last couple games. If Price has time to throw, he will likely attack USC's weakness at No. 2 cornerback where junior Torin Harris will once again start. A little time in the pocket and a couple of completed passes early could give Price the confidence to return to his 2011 form.

USC-Washington kicks off at 4:00 p.m. PT and will be televised live on FOX and FOX Deportes. You can also catch the game on 710 ESPN .

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