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USC vs Washington Game Preview

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No. 21 USC hit the road again to face No. 17 Washington in another marquee conference matchup.

NCAA Football: Southern California at Washington Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

USC bounced back in a huge way against Utah at home. The once again hit the road for another big time match up with another ranked Pac-12 team in the No. 17 Washington Huskies. Washington is coming off a 42-17 blowout road victory over the BYU Cougars. Yes the same team that defeated USC in overtime. While USC is currently sitting at 2-0 in Pac-12 play, Washington lost their lone conference game at home to No. 15 Cal in a game that was delayed due to a thunderstorm. We break down the upcoming matchup between two ranked Pac-12 teams.

Utah v USC Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images

Offense

The USC offense once again played shuffling quarterbacks as Kedon Slovis went down with a head injury during the first quarter against Utah. Redshirt junior Matt Fink stepped in and provided a spark for the Trojans, throwing for 351 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 1 interception. Fink took advantage of the wide receivers winning the 50/50 battles over the top. The status on the starting quarterback position will be unknown at least until Tuesday when Slovis undergoes concussion protocol. If he’s unable to go then expect Fink to start on Saturday. One thing’s for certain is that the wide receiving core will be ready to go. Michael Pittman Jr. had another outstanding game on Friday night. The senior receiver led the game with 232 yards and 1 touchdown on 10 receptions. Tyler Vaughns and Amon-Ra St. Brown also had touchdown receptions against the Utes.

Fink didn’t spread the ball around as much as Slovis or Daniels does Friday night. The big play approach may not be there against the Huskies. Washington’s secondary has four interceptions on the season and is second in the conference against the pass, giving up only 213 passing yards per game. Senior safety Myles Bryant currently has two of the Huskies for picks. Their defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake does a great job disguising coverage to confuse opposing quarterbacks. Graham Harrell’s “air raid?” and USC’s receivers will be tested against the Huskies secondary.

The run game wasn’t very effective against Utah last week. USC only gained a total of 13 yards against a very tough Utes defensive line. The Trojans offensive line struggled with the physicality of the Utah defensive line which disrupted the run and pass blocking. Vavae Malepeai and Markese Stepp physical running style managed to give USC some success on the ground. Stephen Carr had a critical error when he fumbled giving the Utes the ball back in a tie game. Against the run the Huskies have allowed 118 yards per game. They also have 10 sacks on the season which is 4th in the conference behind USC with 11. Senior Benning Potoa’e currently 4th in the Pac-12 conference with 3 sacks on the year, He could create some problems for the USC offensive line. This could be a game where the Trojans must rely on the run game.

Utah v USC Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images

Defense

The Trojans defense has been very interesting through the first four weeks of the season. The young secondary has done a solid job holding their own despite the lack of starting experience. The have had instances where they’ve been gashed for plays of 20 yards or more through the air. Sophomore safety Talanoa Hufanga has turned in outstanding games for the Trojans. Last week he was one of the key players on defense who stepped up against Utah. He had a total of 14 tackles on the night in the victory over the Utes. Another key factor was the ability of the secondary to step up despite injuries in the unit. Cornerback Olaijah Griffin was forced to come out the game with back spasms while Isaac Taylor-Stuart missed the game with a concussion. Greg Johnson and Chris Steele were able to step in and despite giving up 210 yards to Huntley, it wasn’t anything catastrophic. The status of Griffin and Taylor-Stuart is still in the air for this week. USC will need them back to cover the Washington receiving duo of Aaron Fuller and Ty Jones. Tight End Hunter Bryant will also draw the match up of Isaiah Pola-Mao or Talanoa Hufanga.

The USC defensive line has been the strong point of the team through the season. Drake Jackson and Christian Rector off the edge with Jay Tufele and Marlon Tuipulotu on the inside have given opposing offensive linemen issues. One problem that has haunted the defense has been the lack of containing the outside run and mobile quarterbacks. This week they won’t face a mobile quarterback in Jacob Easton, however he will be the best quarterback they’ve faced so far. He has potential to pick apart the Trojans defense through the air. Easton currently has thrown for 10 touchdowns and 2 interceptions while averaging 268 yards per game. USC must create pressure and disrupt his timing. It’ll be a task as the Huskies offensive line as only allowed 5 sacks on the year.

An issue the Trojans have faced is the running game. The defense has done a masterful job against the interior run, however it’s the outside runs that has gashed them the last few weeks. Washington has three running backs in Salvon Ahmed, Sean McGrew, and Richard Newton. All three have rushed for a combined 692 yards and 8 touchdowns. Look for Washington to use some misdirections and jet sweeps to receivers to beat USC on the outside and keep them off balance.

USC v Washington Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

Key Notes

  • This will be the 86th time USC and Washington met with the Trojans leading the series 52-29-4
  • This is the Trojans first meeting with Washington since 2016 (USC defeated the Huskies 26-13 in Seattle)
  • Washington head coach Chris Petersen currently 1-1 against USC
  • USC is currently 2-0 against teams AP Top 25 ranked teams (No. 23 Stanford and No. 10 Utah). Washington is currently ranked No. 17
  • USC is ranked No. 21 in the latest AP Top 25.
  • Washington is a -9.5 home favorite over USC. The Trojans are 3-11 against the spread and 2-12 outright as an underdog under Clay Helton. Friday night was their first victory as an underdog since defeating Washington in 2016.