Okay, no reason for suspense this week.
I’m taking USC and by a pretty wide margin, 38-20.
Yes, that does mean I have UW beating the spread, though I’m not neccessarily thinking this is going to be a real close game. Just that it’s hard to cover that big a spread on the road and it wouldn’t surprise me if UW got a late TD or something to cover the 21 points.
As for the game itself, I expect USC to be pretty dominant throughout — I gave USC the edge at every position in the scouting report for tomorrow’s paper.
And this is a lot better USC team than the one that the Huskies took to the wire in Los Angeles a year ago. QB John David Booty is a year older and smarter with the ball, the offensive line seems to be run blocking better, the backs are more experienced, and the defense is also more veteran in most places.
The biggest gap between the two right now is the running game where USC holds subtantial edges in all the stats.
USC is averaging 244.7 yards per game which is up subtantially from a year ago when the Trojans averaged 128. Amazingly, USC never rushed for more than 202 yards in any game last season, something it has done in all three games this year (214 against Idaho, 313 Nebraska, 207 WSU).
None of those are great run defenses, but then neither is UW.
With the coaches talking so much this week about how UCLA just had a couple of big runs, I decided to break down the rushing from last week’s game a little bit.
UCLA had eight rushes of 10 or more yards in last week’s game that added up to 219 of the Bruins’ 333 rushing yards. That means UCLA had 43 other rushes that added up to just 114 yards (which also includes one sack for minus four yardes, making it 42 for 110 yards of pure runs).
In some ways, I don’t know what to make of that. Obviously, UW held UCLA to less than three yards per carry on 40 runs. On the other hand, eight of 10 or more yards seems like a lot — UW’s longest rush (by a running back) all night was eight yards.
More tellingly was what UCLA did in the last quarter when everyone knew the Bruins were going to run. Once Patrick Cowan left the game, UCLA had 18 carries for 157 yards. That includes a 72-yarder. Still, take that out and it’s 17 carries for 85 yards, not a bad average when everyone in the house knew UCLA would be running the ball (a total that includes six runs of five yards or longer).
That’s against a UCLA O-line not considered to be great and missing its best player in guard Shannon Tevega.
Being at home should help, but it’s just hard to fathom that UW could improve so dramatically so quickly to stifle USC’s running game.
On the other side, the Huskies are obviously struggling almost as much. UW had 124 yards rushing on 32 carries against UCLA. More than half of that — 63 — came on two Jake Locker runs. And one of those was a scramble off a blitz, a nice play but not the way to build a consistent running game.
UW is still averaging 175.2 yards per game rushing, but just 133 in the last three, while USC is allowing only 64.3 per game. And that actually includes allowing 98 against Idaho (which has a really good RB in Deonte Jackson, the nephew of Stephen Jackson, and he got 99). USC held Nebraska and WSU to a combined 95 yards on 55 attempts.
I also think USC’s perceived weakness in the secondary is a little overblown. Pete Carroll this week said a lot of that yardage came late in games when opponents were trying to rally.
More tellingly, USC held WSU to just 183 yards passing last week, and think all you want of the Cougars but you’d have to admit their passing attack is a lot more refined right now than is UW’s.
Sure, the Huskies have hope. Upsets happen, especially at home, and the Huskies should be well-motivated being at home with the celebration honoring the 1960 team and a crowd that may be a little more, uh, fired up than usual due to the late start time. Weather could also be a factor.
I think UW can keep it competitive by:
—- Losing no turnovers while getting at least three.
—- Having no screwups in the special teams.
—- Locker throwing for at least 250 yards with no interceptions.
—- Holding USC’s run game below 200 yards.
Do those things, and maybe the fourth quarter will be one of the most exciting we’ve seen at Husky Stadium in a long time. Otherwise, it could simply be a long night.
Okay, no reason for suspense this week.
The opinions expressed in reader comments are those of the author only, and do not reflect the opinions of The Seattle Times.