The roller coaster of Sark’s time at UW featured some thrilling highs and some nauseous lows. This week, the Huskies hope to catch him on a downturn.
There isn’t one thing — not one obvious area where the Huskies have a no-doubt, yes-they-can-do-this advantage against USC heading into Thursday night’s game.
Some of that has to do with the Huskies being the youngest offense in the Pac-12; in many ways, they’re still trying to figure out who they are and what they do best. And trying to figure out who you are and what you do best while having to go on the road against a team with top-five talent on a primetime stage, well, that’s not ideal. Obviously.
But that’s where the Huskies find themselves.
USC, a 17-point favorite, has more envious problems, like trying to get back into the playoff picture.
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The Trojans have the kind of talent and they have the kind of experience that had many projecting them as a national-championship contender coming into the season. They had a head-scratching stumble at home against Stanford a few weeks ago, but then bounced back with an emphatic victory over Arizona State.
What can UW learn from Stanford’s 41-31 upset of USC? In that game, Kevin Hogan, Stanford’s fifth-year senior QB, had one of his best games (18-for-23, 279 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT), Stanford ran for 195 yarsd and its offense was on the field for almost 40 minutes without committing a turnover.
How about the Huskies in those areas? Jake Browning is going on the road in the Pac-12 for the first time, and he’s had the ups and downs you’d expect from a true freshman QB. The Huskies had five turnovers in their loss to Cal, they abandoned the run and they were on the field for barely 20 minutes (which, by the way, was a record low for UW in time of possession).
The Huskies can maybe reverse one or two of those trends on offense, but to pull off an upset Thursday they probably need all of that (and more) fixed on offense.
Perhaps the bye week was enough to do the trick.
Or, perhaps, Chris Petersen has something else up his sleeve.
Many believed Steve Sarkisian’s departure for USC gave the Huskies an upgrade at head coach when Petersen finally decided to leave Boise. Now, here we are, 18 games into his UW tenure and Petersen has yet to get a “signature” win with the Huskies. Of course, Petersen hasn’t had any unexpected losses either; for the great upsets of USC and Stanford that Sark helped engineer at UW, he was also blown out by 28 points in 10 games over five years.
The rollercoaster of Sark’s time at UW featured some thrilling highs and some nauseous lows. This week, the Huskies hope to catch him on a downturn.
UW defensive tackle Elijah Qualls, a third-year sophomore recruited to UW by Sark, was asked this week about the differences between the program then and now.
“Just how close of a team we are, having a better mentality and a better buy-in,” Qualls said. “It’s all about buying-in and playing for each other, being teammates, and just having a better culture. Not just having a bunch of groups in the locker room, but being more of a team.”
Man to man, the Huskies don’t match up well with USC. That’s obvious. But team to team? And coach to coach? Well, maybe there the Huskies have a chance.
Prediction: USC 35, Huskies 24
Around the Pac-12:
No. 23 Cal (5-0) at No. 5 Utah (4-0): Game of the year in the Pac-12! (Right?) Jared Goff has been impressive, and the Utes’ victory in Eugene was one of the more impressive upsets in the Pac-12 in recent memory. Edge to the home team here. The pick: Utah 42, Cal 38.
Washington State (2-2) at Oregon (3-2): As everyone knows, the Ducks aren’t the same at home (right?) … and the Cougars, for some reason, have been the one team that has given Oregon fits in the past. Wazzu already has the better facilities, and Saturday they’ll prove to be the better team on the field. The pick: WSU 49, Oregon 42.
Oregon State (2-2) at Arizona (3-2): The Wildcats, who seemed to catch every break last year, aren’t catching any now. I like the Beavers here. The pick: Oregon State 28, Arizona 24.
Colorado (3-2) at Arizona State (3-2): The Sun Devils finally looked like the team everyone thought they should be in upsetting UCLA last week. The task now is to not get overconfident. The pick: Arizona State 41, Colorado 27.