USC Football Visits No. 4 Washington|
Nov. 6, 2016
USC, looking to stay alive in the Pac-12 South title race, visits No. 4 Washington. This is the first ranked Husky team USC has faced since 2002 and the highest ranked since 1992. It will be USC’s first visit to Husky Stadium since 2009 (in Troy’s last trip to Seattle in 2012, the game was played at the Seahawks’ stadium while UW’s facility was being renovated). Although USC only has lost 3 times to the Huskies since 2002, the series traditionally features close outcomes. The Trojans have been barely above .500 in Seattle games, where inclement weather is always a possibility. The last 2 times USC has been shut out were games at Washington. ESPN’s College GameDay pre-game show will be in Seattle (the Trojans have won more than 70% of the time with that popular show on site), although the game will air on FOX. USC, following its decisive home win over Oregon, is on a 5-game winning streak after starting off 1-3 in 2016. The Trojans are playing one of the nation’s toughest schedules. All 3 of Troy’s losses in 2016 have been to AP Top 25 teams away from home. USC coach Clay Helton has seen his revitalized offense put up 500-plus total yards in each of the last 5 games, partly due to the emergence of redshirt freshman QB Sam Darnold, who has an 18:3 TD-interception ratio as a 6-game starter and who ranks in the national Top 10 in both passing efficiency (above the USC season record) and completion percentage (he leads all frosh signalcallers in those categories and in TD tosses, where he has a USC freshman record 20, and he is fourth among FBS QBs in the ESPN Total QBR). His top targets--WRs JuJu Smith-Schuster, who is USC’s No. 7 career receiver, Darreus Rogers and Deontay Burnett--are playing impressively, as are the tight ends. Explosive TB Ronald Jones II has carried the rushing load lately due to injuries in the corps, and his 394 ground yards the past 2 games were the most by a Trojan in consecutive outings since 2005 and his 4 TD runs this past weekend tied a school game record. Much credit goes to the stellar play of USC’s veteran offensive line. USC’s defense, now bringing more pressure (11 sacks in the win streak), has become stingy (i.e. holding Oregon to its fewest total yards since 2009 and a season low in points) thanks to the play of LBs Cameron Smith, Porter Gustin and Uchenna Nwosu, DTs Rasheem Green and Stevie Tu’ikolovatu and CB-WR-RET Adoree’ Jackson, who also stars on special teams (he’s in the national Top 10 in punt returns and kickoff returns). Coach Chris Petersen’s Washington team is on a 12-game winning streak, including at California last Saturday to keep the Huskies perfect in 9 games in 2016 and very alive in the national title race. UW has the Pac-12’s top scoring offense (48.3 points a game) and defense (17.0). The Huskies’ offense is guided by QB Jake Browning, who leads the country in passing efficiency and passing TDs (34). Just a sophomore, he already is in the school’s all-time Top 10 for passing TDs, pass yardage and completions. TB Myles Gaskin, a 2015 Freshman All-American when he rushed for 1,302 yards, cointinues to lead the ground attack. UW’s top pass catchers are WRs John Ross, whose 4 scoring kick runbacks and kick return yards are school career records (he also has caught 14 TDs in 2016), and Dante Pettis, who has a school-record 5 career punt return TDs. Washington’s defense is nationally Top 25-ranked in turnover margin (first at +1.7), fumble recoveries (second with 12), third down conversion defense, pass efficiency defense, sacks, pass defense and total defense. UW’s tackle leaders are LBs Victor Azeem and Keishawn Bierria, whose 5 fumble recoveries are the most in the nation this year. S Budda Baker and CB Sidney Jones both were All-Pac-12 first teamers in 2015.