Fourth-ranked Washington is in good position in terms of the College Football Playoff but faces a big hurdle with red-hot USC arriving in Seattle for Saturday’s Pac-12 contest. The Trojans have won five consecutive contests and have soared with redshirt freshman Sam Darnold as the starting quarterback and will represent a big test for a Huskies’ defense allowing 17 points per game.
If things had gone differently following the 2013 season, third-year Washington coach Chris Petersen might be standing on the Trojans’ sideline for this showdown. But Petersen didn’t click with then-USC athletic director Pat Haden during the interview process and the job went to then-Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian – which opened the door for Petersen to leave Boise State for Washington. “It’s just like recruiting: Fit’s got to be right on both sides,” Peterson told ESPN.com. “I think it was, you know, kind of obvious after talking. You’ve got to have your way and know the strengths and weaknesses and the details of everything you’re doing.” Clay Helton is now trying to guide the Trojans back to relevancy and the team has won by an average of 21 points during the winning streak.
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, FOX.
LINE HISTORY: The Huskies opened as 8.5-point home favorites and that number has dropped as low as 8 and as high as 9.5, before settling at 9 Friday afternoon. The total hit the board at 62 and has been bet up to 62.5. Check out the complete line history here.
Southern California – CB Johathan Lockett (doubtful, hip), RB Aca’Cedric Ware (questionable, ankle), RB Justin Davis (questionable, ankle), QB Matt Fink (questionable, ankle), DT Noah Jefferson (questionable, academics), JuJu Smith-Schuster (probable, back), Iman Marshall (probable, hamstring)
Washington – WR Brayden Lenius (questionable, undisclosed), LB Joe Mathis (out for season, foot)
WEATHER REPORT: There is a 80 percent chance of rain showers at kickoff Saturday night at Husky Stadium, decreasing to 16 percent later in the game. Temperatures will be in the 50’s with winds at 20 mph at kickoff.
WHAT SHARPS SAY: “USC returned 10 starters on offense this season with their only loss being QB Cody Kessler who is now with the Cleveland Browns. However, that one loss was costly as the Trojans’ offense struggled in September. However, USC has now turned things around and the Trojans have scored at least 41 points or more in four of their past five games. USC has averaged 40 points in their past five games, compared to averaging just 22 points in their first four games this season.” – Covers Expert Steve Merril.
WHAT BOOKS SAY: “We opened 4th ranked Washington as a -8 point favorite over PAC12 rival USC but got up to as high as -9 with the public backing Washington. We have since moved back to Washington -8.5 as we took some sharp action on the underdog Trojans to cover. As we sit right now we have just over 60 percent of the action on Washington to cover.” – Michael Stewart of CarbonSports.ag.
ABOUT USC (6-3 SU, 5-4 ATS, 2-7 O/U): Darnold has thrown 18 touchdown pass and topped 300 yards three times during the winning streak that has displayed that the Trojans have a star quarterback in the making. Overall, he has passed for 1,874 yards and 20 touchdowns against four interceptions and he is mixing well with standout junior wideout JuJu Smith-Schuster, who has 48 receptions for 641 yards and eight touchdowns. Sophomore inside linebacker Cameron Smith leads the defense with 63 tackles while sophomore outside linebacker Gustin Porter has a team-best 7.5 tackles for losses.
ABOUT WASHINGTON (9-0 SU, 5-4 ATS, 8-1 O/U): Sophomore quarterback Jake Browning matched his own school record with six touchdown passes in last week’s win over California and he also holds the single-season mark of 34 passing scores. Browning, who has passed for 2,273 yards, regularly teams up with junior wideouts John Ross (44 reception, 14 touchdowns) and Dante Pettis (37 catches, 11 scores), while sophomore running back Myles Gaskins (952 yards) is closing in on his second consecutive 1,000-yard season. The defense suffered a huge blow with news that senior outside linebacker Joe Mathis (team-best five sacks) is done for the campaign and needs shoulder surgery.
Trojans are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 conference games.
Trojans are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 games overall.
Huskies are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 games after accumulating more than 450 total yards in their previous game.
Under is 6-1-1 in the last 8 meetings.
Underdog is 4-1 ATS in their last 5 meetings.
COVERS CONSENSUS: The public loves the home favorite with 65 percent of wagers on Covers. The over is also getting a lot of love with 71 percent taking the over.