Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Woe-and-7 Preview: Washington at USC

The Huskies have already made headlines before ever touching down in Los Angeles. The Monday firing of Coach Ty Willingham spins the program further into shambles. But nonetheless, they must play out the remainder of their schedule, including this post-announcement clash with the Pac 10 giant. As miserable as Washington has been, they’ve played the Trojans tough in recent years. It was a 27-24 USC escape in Seattle last year, and a 26-20 victory in the Coliseum in 2006. A victory for Washington on Saturday wouldn’t save Willingham’s job, but he would go out on a high note. A win on Saturday would also record a first, not only for Willingham as a coach of the Huskies, but with this weekend ringing in the new month, it would be the first November loss ever suffered by Pete Carroll in his 8 years with the program.

Last Week- L-Notre Dame

Washington remains the only winless BCS conference program in the nation. It’s a feat that could have been easily matched by their in-state neighbors, if not for Washington State scheduling and defeating FCS Portland State earlier in the year. Be it home or away, the Huskies are equally woeful, ranking among the nation’s worst in nearly every category.

Their offense has been playing without the services of quarterback Jake Locker for the past 3 weekends. Before being sidelined with the thumb injury, Locker provided 70% of the Huskies offense. As it stands, Washington ranks 108th in the country in total offense, which isn’t the worst the Trojans defense has faced this year. Washington State is 115th, and the Cougars never crossed midfield. Surprisingly, the Washington offensive ranking actually has them sitting above some of the bigger names in college football, such as Auburn, Michigan, Tennessee, and Virginia Tech. Freshman Ronnie Fouch is the Huskies signal caller, and D’Andre Goodwin is the favorite target. The running game is non-existent, as Locker also led the team in the category. The only other productive ground gainer is freshman David Freeman, who totaled just 16 yards last weekend versus Notre Dame. His season total is 152 yards, and Washington fails to have a single runner ranked among the nation’s top 100. The offense operates behind a transparent line that has allowed 24 sacks in the 7 games played.

On the other side, Washington doesn’t fair any better, as only 3 national defenses rank lower than the purple people. They surrender a whopping 235 yards per game on the ground, and 244 in the air. Opposing quarterbacks are efficient, and their units score often. You can credit that to the defense totaling just 5 sacks in 2008, allowing hurlers all day to distribute the ball.

Last Week-W-Arizona

USC possesses the nation’s No. 1 defense, allowing opponents just 8 points per game, and 215 total yards. The obvious backbone of the program now smells blood in the water, and based on the Washington numbers, may easily record their third shutout of the season. The unit will have some missing pieces, as Averell Spicer (sprained ankle) will miss Saturday’s game, and Everson Griffen (toe) remains questionable.

The offensive performance against Arizona was frustrating to watch, and we’ve spent days reading about it. The play calling has come under question, as well as the decision making of Mark Sanchez. We won’t really get a good look at any adjustments or improvements this week, because as dismal as the offense was last week, they should with little resistance against the Huskies. C.J Gable is starting to show his own frustrations, but mostly in lack of carries. I believe he’ll get a good chunk on Saturday, the same as a frustrated Broderick Green did against Washington State. Receiver Damien Williams is nursing a sore shoulder and hasn’t participated in any contact drills, but hasn’t been ruled out for the weekend. Vidal Hazelton has a stubbed toe, but his role was sparse against the Wildcats. Joe McKnight is supposedly healthier than he’s been in two weeks, so don’t expect to see as little productivity from the sophomore as was seen in Tucson.

Analysis: Washington opens as a 43 point underdog, and there’s no reason to believe the Trojans won’t cover. Though the Huskies played tough the past two seasons, they don’t have Isaiah Stanback or Jake Locker to lead them. Last year’s contest was closer than it should have been, with Washington still featuring a poor roster of talent. The difference between winning big and nail-biting was the Trojans being penalized 16 times for 161 yards on a drizzly night at Husky Stadium. This one should be over by halftime, but Willingham no longer has anything to lose, so who knows what they’ll bring to the table.

All Time Series: Trojans lead 48-26-4
Streak: Trojans won 6

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