As we prepare for No. 21 USC afternoon meeting with No. 17 Washington, we spoke with John Sayler, editor from SBN community UW Dawg Pound to discuss Saturday’s game.
Washington had two blow out victories after their loss to Cal at home. What would you say were the key adjustments to get the Huskies rolling again?
I don’t think there were really any obvious adjustments. The biggest factor was the level of competition. I know BYU beat USC, but they’re not really a very good team. And Hawaii also just couldn’t match Washington up front. Cal is a good team, especially on defense. The Husky offense was OK against the Bears, but in the second half it was the defense that just couldn’t get stops. Chase Garbers was able to make plays to win that game. UW had some drops in the passing game that fans will point to, but Cal was the better team that night and walked out of Husky Stadium with a huge win.
Jacob Eason has looked very impressive this season. So far he’s thrown 10 touchdowns and 2 picks. What would you say is a key factor in his performance.
Eason is looking very good. His command of the offense is probably the most impressive thing to me, because we already knew he can throw a football through a brick wall. He looks to be getting even better in terms of reading things on the field, and making a few play changes on his own after looking to the sideline for an audible the first three games. His mobility in the pocket is still a little scary to me; he’s a decent athlete, but he seems to think he is more mobile than he actually is. But if you sit back in cover-two and let him stand in the pocket, he will shred a zone defense all day long.
What are some main concerns heading into Saturday’s game with USC?
The Trojans’ wide receivers are what scare me. It hasn’t really mattered who the QB has been, the guys on the outside have been making plays. Those 50/50 balls are going to be the key to this game. UW has a talented secondary, but some of these guys are pretty small, and a few are still getting their feet wet in terms of game experience.
USC always has great athletes. That’s a concern all over the field. The veteran offensive line for UW has looked very good so far, but they will be challenged this week with guys who are as big (if not bigger) and as strong (if not stronger) than UW’s front. The running game has to get going for the Husky offense to succeed. That will be a huge key.
What would you say are Washington’s strengths and weaknesses?
The strengths of the Husky team are the aforementioned offensive line, the NFL-ready quarterback, and the running back trio of Salvon Ahmed (who’s status is unknown), Sean McGrew, and Richard Newton. UW also has two of the top tight ends in the Pac-12 in Hunter Bryant and Cade Otton. The weakness on offense is an experienced (but undersized) receiving corps who have had trouble getting separation against elite defenders.
On defense, the weakness has been undisciplined play from the linebackers, and some shotty tackling in the secondary. That was mostly cleaned up last week against BYU. The strength is the depth of the defensive line, where a couple of redshirt freshman have stepped in and played really well for the Huskies.
Special Teams was awful for Washington the past couple season, but this year has been very, very good.
What match up do you believe will make the difference in the game Saturday?
I’ll pick two, both of which I already touched on.
The Husky offensive line needs to control the line of scrimmage to give Eason time to throw and allow UW to establish its downhill running attack. Chris Petersen’s offense always uses the pass to set up the running game, and a clean pocket for Eason is a must. If the Huskies are unable to get the running game going, that makes things much more difficult in the passing game.
Washington’s young secondary needs to hold their own against Pittman and company. This is a very talented USC receiving corps with excellent athletes on the outside. The Husky DBs are good, but they have not faced pass-catchers the caliber of what USC brings.
Highlight 3 key players that USC fans should keep an eye on.
Myles Bryant (#5) is the do-everything DB for the Huskies. He’s not a big guy at only 5’9” 185, but he is everywhere. Look for him to be near the line of scrimmage on one play, then deployed as a single high safety on the next. He is a playmaker for the Husky defense.
Freshman running back Richard Newton (#28) has been the surprise of the young season. He wasn’t on a lot of fans’ radar entering the year, but he has become the go-to guy for short yardage. He’s often deployed in a wildcat formation, and he hits the hole hard with an aggressive, angry style.
Keep an eye on #91 in the middle of the Washington defense. Redshirt freshman Tuli Letuligasenoa has been very impressive so far this season. UW has had a number of great nose tackles over the past few seasons including Greg Gaines, Vita Vea and Danny Shelton. Letuligasenoa appears to be the next to wear that crown for the Dawgs. He is exceptionally strong.
What’s your predictions and a final score?
USC is always scary due to the great athletes they possess. Chris Petersen’s teams have struggled against superior athletes during his tenure at Washington, so this game is a big challenge. UW needs to get pressure on the quarterback and cover really well. Those 50/50 balls are going to be a key in this game.
I like the Huskies to be able to establish the running game, and get a 31-21 win at home.