Washington is nearly a two-touchdown underdog against USC, but the Huskies have had success recently against the Trojans.
If oddsmakers are right, Washington fans might think it’s a good thing they won’t get to see USC again for a few more years.
But whether Saturday’s game goes as expected — USC is a 12 ½-point favorite — or the Huskies pull another big upset, UW fans should take a good look at the Trojans.
Saturday’s 4 p.m. visit by the Trojans to CenturyLink Field is the last game between the two until at least 2015. In 2013 and 2014, the Huskies will not play USC or Colorado to make way for the return of UCLA and Arizona State to the schedule. Depending on how the schedules work, USC might not come to Seattle again until 2016.
“Seems weird,” UW coach Steve Sarkisian said this week. “Kind of doesn’t seem right, you know? But the schedule is the schedule. It seems odd that we haven’t played UCLA the past two seasons, as well. But I think at the end of the day it’s probably the best thing for our conference to have 12 teams.”
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Some of the Huskies’ most memorable wins have come against the Trojans, and often in the same underdog role they will play today.
Since 1975, UW has beaten the Trojans five times when USC was ranked and Washington was not — which is the case today — and another two times when both were ranked, the Trojans higher. Five of those seven victories came in Seattle.
The Huskies will be hoping for a similar upset Saturday against USC. The Trojans were ranked No. 1 by The Associated Press heading into the season, but fell after a 21-14 loss at Stanford on Sept. 15.
The Trojans have since rebounded with dominating wins against California (27-9) and Utah (38-28). There are still hopes of a Pac-12 title, and the Trojans remain on the periphery of the national-title chase, standing at 4-1 overall.
Sarkisian said this week that even the Stanford loss doesn’t dim what he sees as one of the best teams in the nation.
“I know (USC coach) Lane (Kiffin) hates when I say this, but they’re probably the most talented team in our conference,” Sarkisian said this week. “You just look at their starting 22, they are a really, really talented group.”
Indeed, the passing trio of quarterback Matt Barkley and receivers Robert Woods and Marqise Lee is maybe the best in the country. The running game has improved, led by Penn State transfer Silas Redd. And the defense ranks near the top of most Pac-12 categories, and is second in total defense, allowing 338 yards per game.
Washington, meanwhile, is coming off a 52-21 loss at No. 2-ranked Oregon, its second blowout loss on the road this season against a team ranked No. 2 — the other at LSU on Sept. 8, 41-3.
In between the Huskies beat No. 8 Stanford 17-13, a week after the Cardinal had beaten the Trojans.
Two of UW’s recent wins as underdogs against USC have come under Sarkisian — a 16-13 victory in 2009 at Husky Stadium and a 32-31 win in 2010 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
The win at USC featured the first touchdown pass for Keith Price, a freshman who briefly replaced injured Jake Locker to throw a 1-yard TD pass in the fourth quarter.
“Oh man, I was excited,” said Price, who grew up not far from the USC campus. “My first touchdown pass back at home, I will never forget it.”
What the Huskies need now is for Price to recall that feeling and style of play. The quarterback’s recent struggles have been the main topic around the team this week. Price has thrown for five touchdowns in five games this year after tossing a school-record 33 last season.
Price held court with reporters for roughly 10 minutes Monday, acknowledging he has been pressing and not playing in the same manner as last season, something he promised would change.
Asked how he planned to get back on track, he said, “I am just going to continue to play my game, and when things do break down I have to make plays and make more plays for this team and just having fun doing it and enjoying what I do. I don’t think that’s what I’ve been doing the past couple of weeks is really enjoying what I do. All the work I have put in over the offseason and during the in-season, I’m sure it will pay off, and I’ve just been having a tough break of it these past couple of weeks. But I will get back on the horse.”
And there’s no better time for the Huskies to get back on their horse than when the Trojans come to town.
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or email@example.com