A bye week, and everything is squared away for the start of Pacific-10 Conference play?
Sure, after a week off to review the debacle that was Nebraska, the Huskies – in theory – should be wiser, should be sharper and should be ready to put forth arguably their best effort of 2010.
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1, The linebacking corps still has issues to answer for. Middle linebacker Cort Dennison hasn't laid a meaningful hit since suffering a concussion a few days before the Nebraska game, and who knows how banged up outside linebacker Victor Aiywea's hand is – a mid-week injury suffered in practice.
What we do know is if somehow Garret Gilliland and Matt Houston do make it on the field Saturday, it might spell trouble.
2, Can Jake Locker re-establish a rapport with James Johnson, who should see his most significant time after a fall-camp ankle injury? The Huskies NEED to make plays in the passing game against USC.
3, Tackling. Those who witnessed the Nebraska game know what I'm talking about.
Here is my preview box, and pick:
WASHINGTON (1-2)at No. 18 SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA (4-0)
Kickoff: 5 p.m. PDT, Los Angeles Coliseum.
TV: ESPN2. Radio: 950-AM.
The series: USC leads, 49-27-4, although the Huskies stunned the Trojans last season, 16-13, in the final seconds to snap a seven-game skid. The UW's last victory in Los Angeles was 1996 (21-10 win).
What to watch: Will Jake Locker rebound from his 4-of-20 showing against Nebraska? Two weeks of rest and mechanics' review, and a game plan that should put the ball in his hands often to throw deep and run at will should give him every opportunity to produce big-time. … How is the USC defense different under new coordinator Monte Kiffin than it was under Pete Carroll, the former Trojans coach? Carroll found more creative ways to disguise pressure schemes, particularly with his defensive linemen. What the UW offense sees pre-snap against USC today is usually what is coming – a Kiffin trait. … What could tilt today's outcome in the Huskies' favor. The UW has to make big plays against USC's suspect defensive backs, and cannot afford any special-teams gaffes facing more pressure than it did against Nebraska.
What's at stake: Almost a must-win if the Huskies want to get their season back on track toward a bowl bid. A loss, and 1-3 mark might be too much to overcome with their remaining conference slate.
TNT pick: Trojans, 34-21. PRIME NUMBERSWASHINGTONNo. Name (position) Height/Weight Year01 Chris Polk (RB) 5-11/214 SophomoreWill let legs do the talking this time against school he initially committed to. 03 James Johnson (WR) 6-0/201 SophomoreA must he is big part of the passing game plan; can muscle off press coverage.10 Jake Locker (QB) 6-3/230 SeniorWas Nebraska effort the rule or exception? For UW fans, hopefully the latter.31 Cort Dennison (MLB) 6-1/236 JuniorSorely missed against Cornhuskers; needs to be dependable tackler UW lacks.92 Everrette Thompson (DT) 6-6/244 JuniorHis longer, leaner frame and good leverage shifted inside to plug running lanes.
USCNo. Name (position) Height/Weight Year07 Matt Barkley (QB) 6-2/220 SophomoreAbsent from last year's game; thrown at least one TD pass in last 12 games.24 Shareece Wright (CB) 5-11/185 SeniorA steady performance could do wonders for ailing secondary giving up big plays.31 Stanley Havili (FB) 6-1/225 SeniorEven if UW slows down USC's quick tailbacks, Havili can do plenty of damage.42 Devon Kennard (MLB) 6-3/250 SophomoreMoved from defensive end; registered team-high eight tackles against WSU.83 Ronald Johnson (WR) 6-0/185 SeniorPerhaps no receiver in the Pac-10 poses a greater challenge than this speedster.