By Richard Bowman
The (#4)Washington Huskies are 9-0(6-0) to put this into perspective since 1996, they’ve only won 9 or more games twice and have had a winless season along with a one-win season. Long-time Boise State coach Chris Petersen left for Washington in December of 2013 after dominating a small conference for almost a decade, he is now making himself known with the big boys of college football. (#20)USC comes into this game 6-3(5-2) on a five-game winning streak in which they’ve allowed no more than 24 points a game and have scored at least 41 points in four of those games. Tonight both these teams are set to square off in what should be an entertaining game that should let us know where Washington stands in the grand scheme of things.
Rundown of (#4)Washington
Before the season, the Washington Huskies were ranked #14 and #18 respectively in both the AP and coaches poll surprisingly enough they were ranked one spot below USC in the coaches poll. However, since then the Huskies have let it be known that they’re for real. It is still disputed as to if they should be in the college football playoff over Ohio St. but Washington can put that talk to rest with an impressing outing against USC. It’s been a breakout season for sophomore QB Jake Browning, he’s currently second in the nation in QBR just behind Lamar Jackson and has already passed for 34 touchdowns in 9 games with only 3 interceptions.
It doesn’t just stop there for Washington, not only are they talented at QB but they also boast one of the better running back and wide receiver tandems in the nation. At running back Myles Gaskin has held things down, he’s just three yards shy from 1,000 from scrimmage and is 48 yards shy of 1,000 rushing yards on the season in just 9 games. At wide receiver both John Ross and Dante Pettis have proven to be quality playmakers that have a knack for finding the endzone.
Washington’s defense has been bend but don’t break against the run while being stout against the pass. Washington only gives up 3.8 ypc against the run, however, while that is impressive, they’re giving almost 150 rushing yards a game, and have allowed 11 rushing touchdowns so far this season. Some of that is because of how good they’ve against the pass so far this season opposing QB’s vs Washington are: 8 TD’s, 10 INT’s, 56 CMP%, 105.1 college rating, and on average only passing for 181 yards a game. Washington is a complete football team with few flaws and should be a tough game for any team in the country.
Rundown of (#20)USC
USC had a shaky start to the season but they’ve since settled down and found their game. As mentioned above USC has won five straight while scoring 40+ in all but one of those games and holding opposing teams to 24 points or less during the streak. USC doesn’t have the impressive statistics like Washington but they’re a team with talent that has momentum in a conference showdown. USC redshirt freshman QB Sam Darnold has starting to show his potential recently. During the streak, he’s got 17 TD’s to just 3 INT’s with three 300 yard performances thrown in there. Darnold will be key if the Trojans want to pull off the win in Washington, he’s facing a legit pass defense, and USC can’t afford a growing pains type of performance or else it’ll be ugly.
USC has their own playmakers in Ronald Jones II, Adoree Jackson, and JuJu Smith-Schuster. Ronald Jones just ran wild on Oregon with a performance that saw 171 yards along with 4 TD’s. The week before, he ran for 223 yards on Cal along with 2 TD’s. Jones will be key with fellow running back Justin Davis being hampered with an ankle injury. Adoree Jackson is USC’s team captain at cornerback but he’s been able to provide a spark for USC whether it’s on defense or special teams, if USC wants to pull this off, they’ll need him to make some impact plays. At receiver, USC has a beast of their own in Juju Smith-Schuster, the 6’2″, 220 pound Junior has cooled off these past few weeks after putting together three impressive performances but he’ll need to bounce back if USC wants this game. Smith-Schuster should have his fair share of one on one opportunities in this one, he is dealing with a back injury but is expected to play. Darnold will be leading on him to make plays.
On defense, USC runs a unique 5-2 base, a big reason for this is because of how good they’re at cornerback, and because of how weak they’re up front. USC doesn’t do a particularly good job of stopping the run or getting to the QB which has in return also hurt their pass defense. Despite their issues, USC is allowing just over 23 points per game and at the college level that isn’t too bad, they’re the definition of a bend but don’t break defense, however, it’ll be up to the secondary to contain Washington’s great passing attack. Both Adoree Jackson and Iman Marshall will have their hands full in this one.
Analysis and Prediction
I really want to pick(#20)USC in this one but something tells me they’ll need to play the perfect game on the road in Washington and for that reason I just can’t do it. This game has all the makings of a back and forth affair with (#4)Washington making more plays late to win it. USC would be smart to work the clock, they could definitely grind Washington and keep the score close for the most part. Sam Darnold will be facing the second toughest test of his career in this one and should not be relied on to win the game, he’s got the ability to make throws here and there so USC would be wise to play a conservative but efficient game with their young QB. As for Washington, they’d be wise to throw off the run but something tells me they’ll come out slinging the pigskin testing this USC defense in the process.
Prediction: 31-21 Washington
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