No. 20 USC (6-3 overall, 5-2 in the Pac-12) has been on a roll, winning five straight games to climb back into the national rankings.
No. 4 Washington (9-0 overall, 6-0 in the Pac-12) is unbeaten and seems headed towards a spot in the College Football playoffs. But a bias against West Coast football has many questioning if they are worthy of such lofty praise.
This weekend, both teams take center stage in the NCAA pigskin universe as the marquee matchup of the weekend, which features two of the most promising young signal callers in America. The Huskies’ Jake Browning has tossed 34 touchdown passes, is completing close to 70% of his throws and has 2,273 yards through the air. The Trojans’ redshirt freshman QB Sam Darnold became the full-time starter in their fourth game of the year, a 31-27 loss to No. 15 Utah. They’ve won every game since.
In the six games with him running the offense, Darnold has completed 146 of 215 passes for 1,874 yards and 20 scores.
If you wanted to watch the one game this weekend with the most combined NFL prospects, this is the one. USC running back Ronald Jones has 393 rushing yards in his last two games alone, while his counterpart on the opposite sideline, Myles Gaskin, is sure bet to find the end zone. Gaskin’s best game thus far was against Oregon, where he rushed for 197 yards on 16 carries. Thus far this season, he has 952 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground.
USC must give Washington’s defense a steady dosage of Jones, who had 171 yards and four touchdowns in last week’s win against Oregon, and an overall productive rushing attack. During their last five games, they’ve averaged close to 300 yards on the ground. If they’re gaining first downs with hand offs and protecting the pocket for Darnold, this one could be a thriller.
In addition to their QB and running back, you’ll want to keep your eyes on USC’s marvelous multi-faceted weapon Adoree’ Jackson. He’s basically the west coast’s version of Jabrill Peppers, scoring in more ways than Donald Trump knows how to offend people. Jackson is a shut-down corner who’s dangerous in the return game, along with being a threat on offense if USC chooses to utilize him there.
Washington excels at breaking big plays on first and second down, and calling their offense explosive is like saying Robert DeNiro is a just a decent actor. Last week against Cal, receiver John Ross II had caught six balls, three of which went for touchdowns, for 208 yards. Two of those TD’s went for 60 and 67 yards.
After shaking off their 1-3 start, USC’s defense has been good at not giving up big plays. If they can maintain that against Washington, they’ll be in business.
With none of the other top teams taking on ranked opponents, Washington will have the eyes of the college football world looking to see if they’re worthy of the hype. USC will be trying to let everyone know that they’re USC again. This one is not to be missed.