3:30 PM EST, FOX – Line: Washington -10.5, Over/Under: 60.5
As the Pac-12 turns without a clear-cut favorite, one may emerge tonight as the No. 17 Washington Huskies play host to the No. 21 Southern California Trojans, from Husky Stadium in Seattle, Washington. My, oh my, what a difference a week can make for a program, as Southern California (3-1, 2-0 in Pac-12) returned to the AP Poll following last Friday’s impressive 30-23 upset of No. 10 Utah. Entering that affair, the Trojans were under fire, particularly their Head Coach, Clay Helton, who following a disappointing 5-7 campaign, which was coincidentally the school’s worst this millennium, was licking their wounds after a surprising 27-30 loss at BYU. Needless to say, this isn’t how Helton and his Coaching Staff imagined beginning the season, with their Starting Quarterback, J.T. Daniels (73.5%, 215 YDS, 6.3 Y/A, 1 TD, 1 INT), suffering a torn meniscus in the Opener, and thus turning to Kedon Slovis (77.9%, 732 YDS, 9.5 Y/A, 5 TD, 4 INT), the school’s first True Freshman to start since Matt Barkley did so back in 2009. To his credit, Slovis was sensational in his first start, a 45-20 victory over Stanford, though was decisively less so against Brigham Young, where the threw three costly Interceptions. As fate would have it, USC would suffer yet another twist, as Slovis suffered a concussion on the second play of last Friday Night’s affair with the Utes, forcing Helton to once again shift gears, giving the nod to Matt Fink (70.0%, 351 YDS, 11.7 Y/A, 3 TD, 1 INT). Of course, many were surprised to even see Fink still on the roster, for after falling towards the bottom of the Depth Chart following a four-man Quarterback Competition, heavily weighed the prospect of heading to Illinois as a Graduate Transfer in an attempt to seek out a more advantageous opportunity. It’s a good thing he stayed, for the Junior Signal-Caller put together an excellent performance, completing 21-of-30 Passes for 351 Yards, Three Touchdowns, and an Interception against arguably the league’s nastiest Defense. Though Utah managed to nullify the ground game, the Los Angeles native was in synch with Freshman Receiver, Michael Pittman Jr. (31 REC, 437 YDS, 14.1 Y/R, 3 TD), who hauled in a Ten Receptions for 222 Yards, the fifth-most in school history, along with a 77-Yard Touchdown that turned the tide of the contest in the host’s favor. In the end, it was a welcome sight for the Trojans, who appear to possess one of the deepest stables of Quarterbacks in the country, as their newly-incorporated Air-Raid system is well ahead of schedule. Credit also goes to the Trojans’ Defense, which despite relinquishing 457 Total Yards, including 247 Rushing Yards, came up huge on a few occasions in the Second Half; the first of which was Sophomore Safety, Isaiah Pola-Mao’s (25 TKL, 2.0 TFL, 1.0 SK, 1 INT), crucial Sack on Third Down at their 1-Yard Line forced the visiting side into a Field Goal, and the second in which Freshman Defensive Lineman, Drake Jackson (17 TKL, 5.5 TFL, 3.0 SK, 1 FF, 3 PD), pressured Tyler Huntley into an Intentional Grounding Penalty in the End Zone to log a Safety. Of course, Southern Cal was also aided immensely by Sixteen Penalties going against their counterpart for a whopping 120 Yards Lost, though the home side also drew the ire of the Referees, earning Eleven Penalties themselves for 117 Yards Lost. Red laundry aside, if USC can continue to keep up this resilient run, then one would have to imagine them making a huge leap in the AP Poll, for this six-game stretch to begin 2019 is arguably the most perilous in the country. With that said, it’s far from over, for awaiting Helton’s charges are tonight’s opponent, the Seventeenth-Ranked Huskies followed by a showdown with No. 10 Notre Dame, both of which will be contested away from the friendly confines of the Los Angeles Coliseum. In regards to Washington, they haven’t met since 2016, in which Southern California traveled to Seattle, and knocked them off in a 26-13 upset.
Meanwhile, despite the game of Musical Chairs that is being played in the Pac-12, one would have to think that the odds-on favorite to emerge atop the league is going to be Washington (3-1, 0-1 in Pac-12), though they have yet to reveal themselves worthy of such a distinction. That’s because at this point, the Huskies are winless within conference play, falling to California in a narrow 19-20 defeat two weeks ago at Husky Stadium. Of course, the Golden Bears have proven to be better than initially expected (occupying No. 15 in the AP Poll), but that doesn’t help the fact that that particularly defeat has now made their margin for error razor thin. With that said, it appears that Chris Petersen’s charges have accepted that wake-up call for what it was, humbling their following two opponents, Hawaii and BYU, by a combined score of 97-39. When we last saw them, Washington made quick work of the Cougars, who as we detailed earlier, handed Southern Cal their lone loss of the season, piling up 483 Total Yards on Twenty-Seven First Downs, rushing for 193 Yards on Thirty-Six Carries. This one was never close, folks, as the visiting side started fast and furious, racing out to a 21-3 by the end of the First Quarter, which was punctuated by a 68-Yard Fumble Return for a score courtesy of Senior Linebacker, Brandon Wellington (13 TKL, 1.0 TFL, 0.5 SK, 1FR, 1 TD). Tailbacks Sean McGrew (45 CAR, 242 YDS, 5.4 Y/C, 5 TD) and Richard Newton (33 CAR, 204 YDS, 6.2 Y/C, 1 TD) rushed for 110 and 80 Yards respectively, with the latter barreling into the End Zone on two occasions. The pairing performed admirably in the stead of Salvon Ahmed (44 REC, 246 YDS, 5.6 Y/C, 2 TD), who didn’t make the trip to Provo as he continues to work his way back from a lower-leg injury that he reaggravated the previous week. However, the player of the game was Jacob Eason (73.1%, 1,063 YDS, 8.9 Y/A, 10 TD, 2 INT), who completed an efficient 24-of-28 Passes for 290 Yards, Three Touchdowns and an Interception. Of course, the Junior Quarterback will remain one of the larger stories for Washington throughout the season, after finally becoming eligible to start following his Transfer from Georgia. If you remember, the highly-recruited Eason began his career as the Bulldogs’ First String Quarterback, before an injury suffered in the 2017 Season Opener effectively ended his tenure in Athens, allowing Jake Fromm to succeed him and take the school to the National Championship Game. Eason was then forced to sit out the 2018 season in it’s entirety following the move to the Pacific Northwest, with many in the college football world forgetting about him altogether. Thus far, he hasn’t disappointed, completing a stellar 73.1% of his Attempts for an average of 265.8 Yards on 8.9 Yards per Attempt, Ten Touchdowns and Two Interceptions. Standing at 6-6, 227 pounds, this kid has the prototypical size and arm strength coveted by NFL Scouts, who will no doubt be keeping tabs on how his career unfolds in Washington. Defensively, this Huskies have been surprisingly staunch given that they lost nine Starters from last year’s group. Through four games, they’ve allowed just 18.2 Points per Game (33rd Overall) on 332.0 Total Yards, including 213.3 Yards against the Pass, and another 118.8 Yards versus the Run, racking up Ten Sacks and Six Turnovers. This unit was particularly effective against BYU, totaling Three Takeaways, and a pair of Turnover-On-Downs. Though the youth has surely impressed, it’s been a pair of Seniors that have been the most noteworthy thus far, with Defensive Back, Myles Brant (24 TKL, 2.0 TFL, 1.0 SK, 2 INT) accounting for a Sack and Two Interceptions, while Defensive Lineman, Benning Potoa’e (12 TKL, 5.0 TFL, 3.0 SK) leads the team with Five Tackles for Loss ad Three Sacks. If this group continues to grow at such an accelerated rate, then Petersen & Co. should ascend to the top of the Pac-12 in due time, though they’ll have to avoid what would be their first 0-2 start in conference play since 2008.