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Washington faces their third-straight Top 10 opponent and the Trojans are a much different breed then any team they have seen this season
The bad news is that for the third-straight week, and the fourth time in the last five games, the Huskies face off against a Top 10 team in the form of the USC Trojans. The good news is that the Huskies match-up with the Trojans better than any of the other teams that they have faced in this nightmare stretch of their schedule and also get the Trojans at home in Seattle.
While the Huskies might be relieved to finally not be facing team that plans to straight up steamroll them on the ground, they certainly can't be looking forward to the Trojans aerial attack which is among the best in the nation (If not the best). The Huskies have yet to face a team this season that really likes to throw the ball that much at all, so Saturday's game will be the first true opportunity to find out if the Huskies pass defense has in fact improved from last year.
What Husky Fans Should Be Confident About
Secondary Strength - Yes, they haven't been tested as much as other units, but the Huskies secondary has played better than any other unit on the team week after week, with Desmond Trufant looking like a first-day NFL draft pick. This is good for the Huskies as the Trojans are sure to attack them through the air as much as they can with their dynamic duo of NFL-ready receivers Marqise Lee and Robert Woods.
USC's Offensive Line - One of the reasons the Trojans haven't been pounding the ball on the ground is the inexperience and lack of outstanding players along their offensive line. The USC line is far from poor, especially with a healthy Khaled Holmes, but should be a nice change of pace for the Husky front seven after facing the mammoth and nasty lines of LSU and Stanford and Oregon's impeccably coached and schemed front.
Home Cooking - Some members of the media described the noise of the Husky crowd in CenturyLink Field in the fourth quarter of the Stanford game as just as loud as any Seahawk crowd has ever been in the same stadium. With CenturyLink regularly regarded as the loudest stadium in the NFL, that says a lot, and the Huskies appear to have a game-changing home away from home in South Seattle.
What Should Make Husky Fans Scared
Marqise Lee & Robert Woods - Both among the best receivers in the country when they are on, these two are a completely different breed of receiver compared to what the Huskies have seen thus far. No offense to Odell Beckham, Josh Huff or Ty Montgomery, but the Huskies haven't seen anybody anywhere near the skill level of these two yet and it will be a tall task to even slow them down a little bit.
Lack of pressure - The Huskies just can't seem to get consistent pressure on quarterbacks and they may have been able to get away with it a little bit against the quarterbacks they have faced thus far in Seattle, but Matt Barkley will absolutely torch them if they can't get pressure on him. Also, the Huskies will not likely be able to generate pressure with blitzing defensive backs as they will have their hands full with Lee and Woods.
The NeverEnding Story - Keith Price might not even remember what a clean pocket looks like after facing LSU, Stanford and Oregon and that shouldn't change this week as USC's front is just as good as those teams at putting pressure on the quarterback. Price hasn't been able to get into a rhythm all season due to pressure and the Trojans have been cruel to bad offensive lines this year, as they sacked Zach Maynard 7 times when they faced Cal.
Players on the spot
QB Keith Price - Price's only good game of the season came against FCS Portland State and even though he has faced some incredibly daunting defenses, the fact that he has been able to produce little to nothing is alarming. Price's passes have actually resulted for more points for the opposing team (14) than they have for the Huskies in the past two weeks (7). The Huskies will simply never be able to play with the nation's elite teams if Price can't step up and play at a high level, even if he is facing pressure.
CB Desmond Trufant - Trufant frustrated fans with scattered play in 2010 and 2011 after a promising freshman season, but looks to finally be on track to becoming the kind of All Pac-12 performer that people thought he would become after his first season. However, this will be his first true test of 2012. No one expects him to shut down either Lee or Woods, but he needs to be able to hold his own for the Huskies to have a chance.
DE Josh Shirley - It might be a good thing that it didn't appear as if Shirley got a ton of reps against Oregon because the Huskies will need him to be cranked all the way up and trying to get to Barkley for the entire game on Saturday. Shirley is far and away the Huskies best pass rusher and will be facing a USC offensive line that is less experienced than others the Huskies have faced this year.
I really do like the Huskies match-ups in this game and I think that CenturyLink can serve as a bit of an equalizer, but unless Woods and Holmes are more banged up than USC is leading on, I just don't see the Huskies being able to pull this one off. I've really liked what I have seen from the secondary this season, but I think they won't look nearly as good when they finally face a deadly duo of receivers, especially with either walk-on Tre Watson, or freshman Marcus Peters having to match-up with half of the Lee/Woods duo.
I think the USC defense is better than it is getting credit for, and with the pressure they can apply up front and with guys like Nickell Robey and T.J. McDonald holding it down in the back, I have a hard time seeing this as the game that Price gets back on track. Once again, I think the running game will be better than expected, especially with Steve Sarkisian dialing up some well timed hand offs that the defense doesn't see coming, but I don't think the Huskies will be able to score enough to keep up with the Trojans.
USC 38 Washington 20