Well, after a poor offensive performance, the antidote: a Washington school. After the second half struggle against ASU, the Cougars were available to take a beating. Now, after a halting, inconsistent showing in Tucson, the 0-7 Washington Huskies come to the rescue, and they bring with them a lame duck head coach who will be gone at the end of the season. Ty Willingham was fired this week by the administration, and from the rumblings behind the scenes, I don't think the Husky players will be trying to win one for ol' Ty. Can they be competitive? Here's a look at the match-up.
Washington Offense vs. USC Defense
The Husky offense is better than Washington State's maybe. When Jake Locker was healthy, at least the Huskies had a playmaker who could do some things when the play broke down, and who made their read option game viable. Teams focused on him, which allowed the running backs to get loose some. But Locker injured his thumb making a block in the Stanford game, and the Huskies have been forced to go with Ronnie Fouch, who is very raw. Fouch is a decent athlete, but he's not in Locker's league as a runner. That means that the read option and the threat of the QB running are gone, and the Huskies have paid for that. Before the injury, UW was averaging about 115 rushing yards per game, which isn't great, but considering that they played Oregon, BYU, and Oklahoma, it wasn't awful. Since then, they've averaged 63 rushing yards per game against some pretty mediocre run defenses.
Fouch has a pretty good arm, but he has been extremely inaccurate. He has completed less than 50% of his passes, and has 4 TDs and 4 INTs in three games. He's about at Locker's level as a passer, but now Washington is no threat on the ground, which forces them to be a pass first team, and Fouch is not capable of leading a team like that.
Washington still lines up a lot of times in the shotgun spread. They are just less likely to run out of the formation than they were before Locker's injury. Generally, they run the ball most out of the I or ace formations. They do that to reinforce execution, but it also makes them predictable. They are for the most part a zone run team. Washington has nothing at running back. Chris Polk was their most talented player there, but he was injured in the second game and is out for the season. David Freeman has probably played the best of the group, but he has been hampered by a high ankle sprain, and only saw spot duty. We could see more of him, as SC has struggled some against little guys, and he's 5-7. Terrance Dailey has been getting the bulk of the carries lately, but he's nothing special.
The Huskies have had a young guy emerge at wide receiver in D'Andre Goodwin. But they have not been able to get any deep game going with him or speedster freshman Jermaine Kearse because of poor quarterback and line play. They only threw the ball deep once the whole game against Notre Dame, and the throw went well out of bounds.
The line has just been a disaster. They've given up 20 sacks in seven games, which puts them in WSU and UCLA territory. They average 2.8 yards per carry. The bad part about it is that Washington is starting a mostly veteran group on the front, and have not got much production. Is it talent, coaching, or both? I'm not sure, but what I do know is that it isn't working. Because of poor play here, UW made Notre Dame's defense look like USC's. They had 124 total yards in the game! WOW! It will be little surprise when they struggle against the Trojans.
Washington Defense vs. USC Offense
This team gives up more yards per game than any team in the Pac-10, including Washington State. Unlike the Cougs, the Huskies don't just sit back in their base defense. They really tried to mix it up against Notre Dame because the viewed the ND line as a weakness, and they did manage to pressure Jimmy Clausen quite a bit. I doubt they will be as daring against the Trojans, but we'll probably see more blitzing than we did against Oregon State, ASU, WSU, or Arizona.
Washington experimented with a 3-4 last week in the face of Notre Dame's five wide looks. I don't think we'll see much of that except on third and long. Generally the Huskies line up in a tradition 4-3, and the weakside backer heads out to the slot in a three wide look. The backers play at regular depth, although they did have a couple of formations against ND where the tackles and ends lined up straddling the outside and inside legs of the offensive tackles, and two of the backers lined up between the tackle and end about a half yard behind. They used that formation to show blitz on passing downs, and came about half the time. I doubt we would see that on first and ten. In general, the Huskies play two deep and their corners give cushion.
There's really nothing that UW is good at on defense. They give up 5.7 yards per carry. Even the punchless Irish running game topped 200 yards. They have the second worse pass efficiency defense in the nation because opponents compete about 70% of their passes with 19 TDs and three INTs, and average over nine yards per pass! Their two sacks against the Irish nearly doubled their previous season total of three! Offenses convert 58% of their third downs against Washington! They forced five turnovers in seven games!
There's not much to say here. They have a serious talent shortage. Their secondary is not good enough to do much gambling, but they do anyway. They get little pass rush even when they blitz. As a result, they give up 40 points and 480 yards per game.
Add that the Huskies might have the worst special teams in the Pac-10, and you've got a team that has little talent and is poorly coached. The Cougs are the only team that the Huskies have a prayer of beating without Locker. The Trojans are going to completely shut down the Washington offense, and the USC offense will do whatever it wants when it has the ball. There's not a lot of analysis necessary. The Trojans have far better players and far better coaching. The Huskies are a disaster that looks to be playing out the string until the Apple Cup.