By Greg Katz – WeAreSC.com
The Obvious: Returning from a much appreciated bye, the No. 17 USC Trojans (3-1, 1-1 Pac-12) return to Pac-12 action on Thursday night, entertaining the unranked Washington Huskies (2-2, 0-1 Pac-12) in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum (6 p.m. PDT/ESPN).
The Not So Obvious: The Trojans have a 95-45-4 record in regular season games following a bye. The Cardinal and Gold will need to come focused and guard against looking too far ahead to its next opponent, No. 15 Notre Dame in South Bend on Oct. 17. Another interesting game factor is that a majority of the current Washington Huskies were recruited by Trojans head coach Steve Sarkisian when he was the head coach at UW.
The Obvious: The Trojans opened as a 17-point favorite to defeat the Washington Huskies.
The Not So Obvious: The Trojans have not played the Huskies the past two seasons, and the last time the Men of Troy played UW was in Seattle in 2012 and Lane Kiffin was the Trojans head coach. The Trojans won 24-14 as defensive back Anthony Brown blocked a punt and returned it for a 21-yard touchdown, and safety Jawanza Starling created and recovered quarterback Keith Price’s fumble inside the Trojans 5-yard line in the final quarter.
The Obvious: The USC/Washington game will be televised on ESPN 6:00 p.m. PT/9:00 p.m. ET).
The Not So Obvious: The ESPN broadcasters for Thursday night’s game will be Joe Tessitore (play-by-play), David Pollack and Jesse Palmer (analysis), and Kaylee Hartung(sidelines).
The Obvious: The Trojans radio broadcast (ESPNLA 710 AM) will feature Pete Arbogast (play by play), John Jackson (analyst) and Jordan Moore (sideline).
The Trojans four-hour pre-game show will commence at 2:00 p.m. (PDT) with Arbogast, Jackson, Moore, WeAreSC.com publisher Garry Paskwietz, Steve Mason, Harvey Hyde, Katie Boggs, and Shaun Cody. There will be a two-hour post-game show following the conclusion of the game with Chris Fisher and Shaun Cody.
The Not So Obvious: The Washington broadcast can be heard on flagship station KOMO 1000 AM with Bob Rondeau (play-by-play), Damon Huard (analyst) and Elise Woodward (sidelines).
The Obvious: Historically, the Trojans have done well in games played in October.
The Not So Obvious: For the record, the Trojans record in October is 299-116-19 (.711), which doesn’t include five wins vacated due to NCAA penalties.
The Obvious: Through four games, the Trojans offense is averaging 46.8 points per game while the Washington defense is allowing 15.8 points per outing.
The Not So Obvious: Through four games, the Washington offense is averaging 29.2 points per game while the Trojans defense is allowing 17.5points per game.
The Obvious: The Los Angeles weather report for Thursday calls for mostly sunny with a high of 90 and a low of 71 degrees.
The Not So Obvious: The real weather report will be whether the Trojans can avoid looking past the Huskies towards next weekend’s game at Notre Dame. We’ll also see whether the Trojans top Pac-12 offense can move consistently against the Pac-12’s top defense. This should be a good measuring stick for Trojans senior quarterback Cody Kessler and his array of talented receivers. One of those receivers is standout sophomore JuJu Smith-Schuster, who will continue his drive to gather votes as a Biletnikoff Award candidate. Smith-Schuster will be flanked by another explosive catch-and-run receiver in sophomore Steven Mitchell Jr.
We’ll find out whether the Trojans defense, led by All-Pac-12 junior linebacker Su’a Cravens and extraordinary sophomore corner Adoree’ Jackson, can defend Chris Petersen’s Huskies offense, which is very similar to that of the Trojans. We’ll also find out whether the bye week for either team is a reward or detriment in their execution and performance. The Huskies start 12 underclassmen including a true freshman quarterback in Jake Browning, who is the second true UW freshman to start.
The Obvious: The Trojans head coach is Steve Sarkisian, who loosened some pressure surrounding him with his team’s dominating performance against Arizona State in their last outing.
The Not So Obvious: Sarkisian earned his bachelor’s degree in sociology from BYU in 1997 after getting his associate’s degree in general studies from El Camino in 1994. He starred at the quarterback position at the prep, collegiate and pro levels and was with Saskatchewan Roughriders of the Canadian Football League for three seasons (1997-99). Sark had a record-setting two-season (1995-96) career at BYU, completing 549-of-824 passes (66.6%) for 7,755 yards and 55 TDs in his career.
Sarkisian was also the WAC Offensive Player of the Year in 1996, won All-American second team honors and played in the East-West Shrine Game and Hula Bowl. As a 1995 junior, he made the All-WAC team and led BYU to the WAC title.
The Southern California native came to BYU from El Camino Junior College, where he starred for two seasons (1993-94). He was a J.C. All-American first teamer as a 1994 sophomore and won All-Mission Conference honors in 1993 as a freshman. He was a standout football and baseball player at West Torrance (Calif.) High.
The Obvious: The head coach of Washington is Chris Petersen, who is in his second season with the Huskies.
The Not So Obvious: Petersen graduated from Yuba City (Calif.) High in 1983 and went on to play quarterback at Sacramento City College. From there, he transferred to UC Davis, earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology in 1988. He later earned a master’s in educational psychology from Davis.
At UC Davis, Petersen set numerous school records, including the single-season standards for passing efficiency, completions, completion percentage, touchdown passes and total offense as well as the career mark for completion percentage. He still remains in the top 10 in Aggies history in numerous season and career categories and his season and career completion percentage records still stand.
In 1986, Petersen was named the Northern California Athletic Conference Player of the Year and earned UC Davis’ Colby E. Slater Award as the school’s Male Athlete of the Year. He was also a captain and won the team’s Jerry Norris Award (Most Valuable and Inspirational). He was inducted into the Cal Aggie Athletic Hall of Fame in 1997.
The Obvious: It’s now the norm that the Trojans are playing games in the late afternoon to normally early evening night games.
The Not So Obvious: Ironically, the Trojans first night game in the Coliseum was in 1944 against Washington, which produced a 38-7 Trojans victory.
The Obvious: The UW offense is led by true freshman quarterback Jake Browning (76-of-117, 65.0%, 996 yds, 5 TD, 4 int in 2015).
The Not So Obvious: In addition to Browning, the Huskies offense features freshman tailback Myles Gaskin (39 tcb, 209 yds, 5.4 avg, 3 TD), who leads the his team in rushing, junior tailback Dwayne Washington (27 tcb, 138 yds., 5.1 avg, 3 TD in 2015, plus 17 rec, 223 yds., 13.1 avg., 2 TD and 2 KOR, 22 yds., 11.0 avg.), who happens to be UW’s top pass receiver, and senior wide receiver Jaydon Mickens, who is fifth (158) on Washington’s career receptions list and was once a Trojans verbal coming out of high school.
The Obvious: The Trojans defense has been maligned at times, but defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox’s unit has been hard to score on and has created four turnovers twice in a game.
The Not So Obvious: The Huskies defense leads the Pac-12 in total defense and is in the national Top 20 in scoring defense and rushing defense. Linebacker Azeem Victor (38 tac, 3.5 for losses) is the Huskies’ leading tackler, and he is joined by senior linebacker Travis Feeney (14 tac, 3 for loss, 1 sack), who has 195 career tackles, sophomore linebacker Keishawn Bierria (28 tac, 1.5 for loss), sophomore safety Budda Baker (6 tac, 3 dfl), and junior corner Kevin King (14 tack, 1 for loss, 3 int, 1 dfl) who is 10th nationally in interceptions and first in the Pac-12.
The Obvious: The Trojans currently have three players from the state of Washington in OT Zach Banner (Lakewood HS), QB Max Browne (Skyline HS), and placekicker Alex Wood (Mercer Island HS).
The Not So Obvious: The Huskies have 60 players from California on its roster.
The Obvious: Two of the Trojans brightest performers are reserve true freshman running back Ronald Jones ll and true freshman starting inside linebacker Cameron Smith.
The Not So Obvious: Jones leads the Trojans in rushing while Smith is the Trojans top statistical tackler.
The Obvious: During each home game, time is taken during the game to make special awards presentations and recognitions.
The Not So Obvious: On the Thursday night, the USC team doctors will be saluted during an on-field presentation.
The Obvious: And finally, the Trojans will have this weekend off and begin preparation for their battle with Notre Dame in South Bend next Saturday.
The Not So Obvious: Think the Trojans team will be watching Navy at Notre Dame this Saturday? Is the Pope Catholic?