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Thursday, October 11, 2012
Five storylines: USC at Washington

By Garry Paskwietz

1. Status of the Trojans offense: So far this season the USC attack has yet to put together a crisp, complete performance and you know it would like to change that this week against the Huskies. The Washington defense has shown signs of improvement this season, particularly in pass defense, but it is still capable of giving up big numbers. UW is giving up only 173 yards per game in the air (No. 13 in the nation) but is allowing 178 yards per game on the ground (No. 77) and 26 points per game (No. 61).

2. Washington O-line against USC pass rush: It’s been a mixed bag for the Huskies this season along the offensive line, as injuries have hit hard and made it difficult to keep a cohesive unit in place for veteran quarterback Keith Price. The Trojans come to town with 17 sacks (No. 7 in the nation) and they will be looking to apply pressure throughout the game. Keep an eye in the middle of the USC D-line, as true freshman Leonard Williams has earned a starting spot with his recent good play.

3. The Negrete factor: Last year USC punter Kyle Negrete changed the tone of the game on a fake punt when he rambled for a first down, ending the play with a physical finish against the Washington defender. Negrete posted a message this week to his Twitter account, “still mad at myself for not scoring last year against UW”. Negrete might not score this year, but he could still have a big impact on the field position battle of the game. He is averaging over 44 yards per punt this season while Washington ranks last in the Pac-12 in punt returns at 4.5 yards per return.

4. CenturyLink Field: The Huskies have one of the best home-field advantages in the conference at their on-campus stadium, but that is being remodeled this season. They are playing instead at the home of the Seattle Seahawks, and it will be the second appearance in an NFL stadium this year for the Trojans. The crowd still figures to be a factor in favor of the Huskies and it will certainly be louder than it was for the Trojans' appearance at MetLife Stadium against Syracuse earlier this season.

5. Lane Kiffin vs Steve Sarkisian: OK, we know the two coaches don’t actually play each other -- it’s a game between the Trojans and the Huskies. And it’s not like this is the first time the two have faced other as head coaches in this rivalry. It doesn’t matter how many times they play, however, it will still mean a little bit more for these two guys when matched up against each other. There’s just something different about the relationship between two friends who grew up together in the coaching business, who once carpooled to work together and who will never stop wanting to beat the other every time they meet.