The USC Trojans are starting to show their old form, but they've had their hiccups along the way. Of course there's the loss to Stanford, but there's also an inconsistent pass game against Cal and the early offensive line woes in Utah. Thankfully, they may find the antidote in the Washington Huskies, a team that just doesn't match up well with them on either side of the football.
It's kind of hard to believe there could be a worse possible matchup for the Washington after the way they've been bludgeoned by LSU and Oregon, but USC is right there in their final Group of Death matchup. The USC pass rush presents just as fierce a task to combat as the Oregon speed rushers and the LSU front four, and they spent much of last year battering Keith Price. The USC run defense bottled up Chris Polk last year, and there shouldn't be much of a difference in trying to hold down Bishop Sankey.
This isn't a Stanford-Washington situation. The Trojans return almost all their skill players from last year and still possess a top-notch offensive line and front seven. The Cardinal didn't possess anyone like Marqise Lee or Robert Woods that can stretch the field vertically, and the difference between Matt Barkley and Josh Nunes in terms of their capability as quarterbacks is rather substantial. Add in some solid pass-catching tight ends and USC provides plenty of versatility that can go along with some of the more traditional ground-and-pound.
If there's any difference from last year's game, it has to be the Washington defense under Justin Wilcox. The Huskies are definitely much faster and more adaptable than they have been before, and against a pro-style pace they could disrupt Barkley and the Trojans. However, that relies on Washington throwing early punches and keeping USC off-balance throughout the contest, because if the Trojans punch early and often it'll be hard for Price to summon some sort of rally.
The defense should have their way with a makeshift Husky offensive line, particularly pass-rushers like Morgan Breslin, Leonard Williams and George Uko. Washington has decent talent with Price and Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Sankey and Kasen Williams offensively, but it's hard not to say USC is at least a match (if not superior) at every one of those positions. And other than maybe the second corner position for the Trojans, they have a defense that should contain Price and pressure him constantly.
In many ways, USC can provide the worst of Oregon (fast speed players) combined with the worst of LSU (strong runners that can carve up the game inside) on offense. Add in the pro-style Stanford-like defense that USC possesses, and it seems like everything matches up poorly with what Washington would want to do offensively.
The Trojans need to use their talent to overwhelm Washington on both sides of the football. The speed of Oregon and the lines of LSU were one thing, but USC is all about skill, and there's no denying they have the advantage in that department, in almost every category. As long as they stay healthy, they should be fine for much of the game.
USC needs to start clicking and rolling like the dynamos we thought they would be at the outset of this season. Right now Oregon looks like the preeminent team in the conference, and no one seems ready to touch them in the Pac-12. If the Trojans can beat Washington in Seattle as soundly as the Ducks did at home, it'll provide a baseline game that USC can utilize as proof they can be just as good as the elites, and set them up nicely for the second half of the season.
Tomorrow is a game the Trojans should win handily. They need to show what they're capable of.