The Huskies are 6-3 and will play in a bowl game for the second year in a row. But they're 0-3 this season against teams ranked in the Top 25. USC, at No. 18, gives the Huskies one more shot at knocking off a ranked team.
LOS ANGELES — As if on cue, here comes USC, yet again presenting the Washington Huskies a chance to define their season.
The Huskies play the Trojans at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum at 12:45 p.m. Saturday, still searching for the kind of marquee victory that could put a nice, tidy bow on a season that in just about every other way appears another step in the right direction under coach Steve Sarkisian.
Washington is 6-3 overall, already assured of a second consecutive bowl game.
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But UW is 0-3 against teams ranked in the Top 25, losing each by 13 or more points, including the 34-17 defeat against Oregon last Saturday in the final game in Husky Stadium before it undergoes a $250 million renovation.
That lack of success against ranked teams has left the question of just how much work remains for UW to once again be listed among the nation’s elite.
And the game against the Trojans might provide UW its last shot this season to win a game against a ranked team. USC is No. 18 in The Associated Press poll. UW finishes the regular season at Oregon State and against Washington State, and then will likely play in a bowl game.
Fitting, then, that the opponent Saturday is USC, which provided the highlight victories of the 2009 and 2010 regular seasons, and two of UW’s five triumphs against ranked teams in 14 tries under Sarkisian in his three years at UW.
The Huskies beat No. 3-ranked USC in a 16-13 upset as a 19-point underdog in Seattle in 2009, then defeated the 18th-ranked Trojans 32-31 in Los Angeles last season.
Each was on a last-second field goal by Erik Folk.
More than worrying about any big-picture issues, however, Sarkisian said he just wants the Huskies “to get right. I want us to play well.”
And he pointed to the fact UW has a recent history of playing well the week after a dud (beating California the week after the Nebraska defeat, and Arizona the week after Stanford, for instance).
“I’d expect us to get back up off the mat again and try to put our best foot forward,” he said. “That’s all we can ask ourselves to do.”
Well, that and try to figure out how to slow down USC quarterback Matt Barkley. The junior has thrown for a Pac-12-high 28 touchdown passes, including a school-record six last week at Colorado.
Sarkisian, who helped recruit Barkley when he was an assistant at USC, made headlines Monday when he said that if he were an NFL coach, he’d take Barkley over Stanford’s Andrew Luck, who is generally expected to be the first choice in the draft.
Sarkisian will hope Saturday that maybe Barkley proves him wrong, though Barkley is likewise eager to amend for a couple of throws that were just off the mark in the fourth quarter last year, either one of which might have sewn up the game for the Trojans.
“It is true that I kind of move on to the next game,” he said this week. “But at the time those two definitely hurt a lot, knowing that that could have been the game right there. Hopefully, well not hopefully, we won’t let that happen again.”
Washington defensive coordinator Nick Holt, meanwhile, began the week with his own comment that raised eyebrows when he said that he’d rather prepare for USC than Oregon. Holt clarified later he meant it solely in terms of the difference in preparation required for the two offenses — USC’s is similar to UW’s while Oregon’s is among the most unusual in college football.
Later in the week, Holt said USC simply presents “a different set of problems in a new week against a fantastic offensive football team, so we’ve got our work cut out.”
Indeed, UW’s pass rush will be tested greatly to not allow Barkley time to find receivers such as Robert Woods, who is leading the conference with 90 receptions for 1,121 yards and 11 touchdowns.
The Huskies were able to use a solid running attack that went for 225 yards a year ago to help shorten the game, a plan the Huskies might try again this year.
Washington, though, will also need a bouceback game from quarterback Keith Price, who has thrown six interceptions the past three games (though admittedly the victim of some bad luck on three against Arizona). Price said this week that the competition has gotten better in recent games and the Huskies need to adjust.
It was at USC that Price first announced his presence last season when he came in for one play for an injured Jake Locker and threw a 1-yard touchdown pass to Chris Izbicki.
Price downplayed that experience this week, saying USC is “a completely different team.”
As for what UW needs to do, Price said: “We have to run the ball well, that’s the main thing — just run the ball, get started running the ball, so we can throw the rock.”
And then, maybe run out of town with another signature victory.
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @bcondotta
|North vs. South|
|Overall, the Huskies are 28-49-4 against USC. Recent results:|
|2001*||UW 10th||W, 27-24|
|2002||UW 22nd, USC 19th||L, 41-21|
|2003*||USC 5th||L, 43-23|
|2004||USC 1st||L, 38-0|
|2005*||USC 1st||L, 51-24|
|2006||USC 3rd||L, 26-20|
|2007*||USC 1st||L, 27-24|
|2008||USC 7th||L, 56-0|
|2009*||USC 3rd||W, 16-13|
|2010||USC 18th||W, 32-31|
|* UW home game|