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Scouting Report: Washington

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Round #5: Washington Huskies

2010 Record: 1-2 (W - Syracuse, L - BYU, Nebraska)

2009 Record: 5-7 (4-5 in the Pac-10)

Series History: USC leads 49-27-4 (Last meeting: 16-13 UW in '09)

Head Coach: Steve Sarkisian (2nd year)

In case you haven't heard, Sarkisian used to coach at USC.  He inherited the Huskies program at an all-time low (0-12).  Last year, they defended their home turf (5-2 in Seattle), but they did not win a single road game.

Players to Watch: QB Jake Locker (Senior, Ferndale, WA) and WR Jermaine Kearse (Junior, Lakewood, WA)

The veteran QB has passed for exactly 6,000 yards in his career, but he's most threatening on the move.  In the first two games of this season, he stood in the pocket and carved up BYU and Syracuse for a combined 555 yards, 5 TDs and 0 INTs.  Against Nebraska, Locker fell apart.  He completed just four of 20 passes, but he'll face the Trojans coming off a motivated bye week.  At his worst, he is a great athlete who struggles with passing accuracy.  At his best, he is the #1 pick in the NFL draft.

While Chris Polk is a solid running back, Kearse has been the Huskies top skill player this season.  He has a TD catch in all three games, including a hat trick in UW's lone win.  As the best wideout USC has faced this season, we'll get a better idea of how the Trojans defend top targets.  Will Shareece Wright shadow Kearse around the field or will USC give the 6'2" receiver a chance to use his height advantage against Nickell Robey?

Strengths: Familiarity and Locker

Steve Sarkisian and Nick Holt learned their craft at USC just like Lane Kiffin.  As Kiffin said earlier in the week, "We watched the same show."  Schematically, the teams are very similar.  "Lane and I are from the same family of offense, but our schemes fit our personnel," Sarkisian said this week.  Meaning, he will hope to use Locker's speed to torment the Trojans as so many mobile quarterbacks have done in the recent past. 

Defensively, the Huskies will be well prepped on the Trojans' tendencies.  They used their advanced knowledge to force three turnovers in last year's contest.  "We have to be prepared for the unexpected," Sarkisian said knowing that Kiffin will be tempted to change his pattern against his former colleagues.  However, does that take USC out of what they do best?

With an extra week to prepare, Washington will likely break out some tricks against the Trojans.

Weaknesses: Run Defense and Rebuild

While Locker was the big dud against Nebraska, the Huskies run defense was equally as culpable for the beatdown.  The Huskers had three different runners top the 100-yard mark.  Washington ranks 104th in the nation in scoring defense giving up an average of 33 points per contest.

Sarkisian took over a true rebuilding project.  If it were not for Locker, the Huskies would not even be on the national radar.  Tyrone Willingham struggled recruiting, so while UW is a dangerous team, they are still a couple of years away from being conference contenders.

Washington Verdict

The Huskies are the first team on USC's schedule capable of emerging victorious without the Trojans completely giving the game away.  However, they cannot go toe-to-toe with USC.  Coming off a bye, Sarkisian will have to dig into his arsenal of gadgets against the more heavily-armed Trojans.

If Jake Locker can throw for 200+ yards and run for 100+, he is capable of pulling off the upset himself.

Matt Barkley missed the UW '09 upset with an injured shoulder.
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