HUSKIES OPPONENT THIS WEEK
No. 17 USC TROJANS (3-1 overall, 1-1 in Pac-12)
6 P.M. THURSDAY, LOS ANGELES MEMORIAL COLISEUM, ESPN, 1000-AM / 97.7 FM
COACH: Steve Sarkisian (12-5 in second season at USC; 47-34 in seventh season overall)
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AGAINST THE HUSKIES: USC leads the all-time series 51-28-4.
SCOUTING REPORT: Storylines abound in this one, what with this being the Huskies’ first game against their former coach, Steve Sarkisian, and several former UW assistants — including defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox, linebackers coach Peter Sirmon, tight ends coach Marques Tuiasosopo, defensive backs coach Keith Heyward and running backs coach Johnny Nansen. … Picked by the media to win the Pac-12 championship, the Trojans already stumbled once in a 41-31 home loss to Stanford, but responded well in a 42-14 blowout victory at Arizona State. … Led by senior quarterback Cody Kessler, the Trojans’ offense averages 8.1 yards per play, which ranks second nationally behind only Baylor. The Trojans have passed for more than twice as many yards as they’ve rushed, but they rank 22nd nationally in yards-per-rush at 5.4. Sophomore receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster looks like the best in the Pac-12, leading the league so far with 537 receiving yards on 27 catches with six touchdowns. … Tailbacks Tre Madden, Ronald Jones and Justin Davis share carries. … USC has shown some vulnerability defensively, ranking 56th in the country in yards-per-play allowed with 5.2. … The Huskies and Trojans haven’t played since 2012, when USC won 24-14 at Husky Stadium. That followed a 40-17 USC victory in Los Angeles in 2011, which followed a pair of sizable UW upsets — first at Husky Stadium in 2009, a 16-13 victory over the third-ranked Trojans in Sarkisian’s third game as the Huskies’ head coach, then again in Los Angeles in 2010, a 32-31 victory clinched by Erik Folk’s 32-yard field goal in the final seconds.
DID YOU KNOW: UW’s current roster includes 42 players who list hometowns in Southern California.
COUGARS OPPONENT THIS WEEK
OREGON DUCKS (3-2 overall, 1-1 in Pac-12)
3 P.M. SATURDAY, AUTZEN STADIUM, PAC-12 NETWORKS, 710-AM
COACH: Mark Helfrich (27-6 in third season at Oregon and overall)
AGAINST THE COUGARS: Oregon leads the all-time series 47-38-7.
SCOUTING REPORT: This isn’t the same Ducks team that steamrolled Pac-12 defenses for the better part of the last decade. That much was made evident in Oregon’s 62-20 home loss to Utah two weeks ago, the kind of loss that would have been unfathomable during the Marcus Mariota era. Mark Helfrich’s squad did recover last weekend to win at Colorado, 41-24, but Saturday’s game looks far more winnable for the Cougars than it did a month ago, even if they are three-touchdown underdogs. … OK, so it hasn’t been all bad for the Ducks. They rank 23rd nationally in yards per play (6.6), though they’re waiting for quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. to recover from a broken finger on his throwing hand. Adams transferred to Oregon this year after a stellar career at Eastern Washington, but the finger injury has hampered his ability as a passer. He didn’t play against Colorado, and the Ducks relied on Jeff Lockie and Taylor Alie, neither of whom appeared particularly comfortable throwing the ball downfield. … But the Ducks won’t have to throw it much if tailbacks Royce Freeman and Taj Griffin continue to run like they did against the Buffaloes. Freeman is second in the Pac-12 in rushing with 613 yards and has scored seven touchdowns, and Griffin is averaging 9.4 yards per rush on 30 attempts. … Defense has been a problem for Oregon all season, and the Ducks rank 89th nationally in yards per play allowed (5.8). … The Ducks beat WSU 38-31 in Pullman last season despite allowing seven sacks.
DID YOU KNOW?: Hard-hitting former Steilacoom High School star Fotu Leiato, a true freshman defensive back, has appeared in each of Oregon’s five games this season and has one tackle.
Christian Caple, staff writer