USC's stumble vs. Washington almost predictable

BY foxsports • September 20, 2009

Some blame has to stick

I can't believe I'm going to have to deal with this yet again.

Every year, a USC team with superior talent loses to a mediocre team with far less skill. Every year, USC goes to the Rose Bowl, obliterates the poor team from the Big Ten and then screams about how it deserves to be the national champion. And every year, USC fans yell at me for demanding more out of their program.

This isn't Oklahoma losing to a BCS-level BYU team after losing a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback in the middle of the game. This is USC losing to a decent, but not great Washington team that couldn't handle LSU at home and is one game removed from the nation's longest losing streak. USC is better than Washington, and that's true even with Aaron Corp at quarterback. Matt Barkley will eventually be special, but there's not supposed to be that big a drop-off from the No. 1 to the 2 at the moment (at least compared with the mile-wide gap between Sam Bradford and Landry Jones). The defense did its job up until the final drive, and the special teams weren't bad. But a national title team doesn't go to Seattle against this Washington squad and put up 13 points.

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So what is it? The team was focused; it had been hearing all week about how this was a dangerous game because of the Steve Sarkisian factor. The offense knew Corp was going to be under center; there was a week of prep time, not to mention most of the offseason, with him under center. Everyone fires on Ohio State's Jim Tressel for not being able to win the big ones, so now is it time to fire on Pete Carroll for not winning the little games? Something isn't working here when it comes to the team's focus and production in these brain-cramp games, and it's time the Teflon coach took some heat for it.

-- Pete Fiutak

Not really a surprise

If you're surprised by Saturday's outcome in Seattle, you haven't been watching USC closely the past few years. It was only a matter of time before it gagged as a heavy favorite. It's becoming a perennial thing under Pete Carroll.

All signs pointed to the Trojans and the Huskies being a far tighter game than the guys in Vegas expected. USC was coming off an emotional win at Ohio State and was a little dinged up on both sides of the ball, including at quarterback. Washington is led by former Trojan assistants Steve Sarkisian and Nick Holt and had momentum after finally ending its 15-game losing streak. It all lined up for the kind of upset that might finally reshape the landscape in the Pac-10. If USC loses one more game, Pasadena just might be hosting someone else, like Cal, Oregon or Oregon State. Heck, maybe Washington.

This is a totally different Huskies team from a year ago, which was obvious in the near-miss with LSU in the opener. With Jake Locker back and Sarkisian calling the shots, U-Dub might be poised to make the unusual journey from winless to bowl-eligible in the span of a year. Maybe this is poor sportsmanship on my part, but I couldn't help but think of Tyrone Willingham after Erik Folk split the uprights with the game-winner. It's incredible how the right coaching move can light the fuse of a revival for a program. That's exactly what appears to be taking place on Montlake.

-- Richard Cirminiello

Fumbled chances

Two things are worth pointing out in the wake of this (Jake by the Lake) Locker Shocker in Seattle: First, the fumble that USC did NOT lose was nevertheless the fumble that denied the Trojans their last best chance to win. Joe McKnight — who has still not solved a case of fumble-itis that has shadowed his career in Los Angeles — had the ball poked from his mitts by hustling Washington defender Quinton Richardson on a long run that had penetrated the UW red zone on the Trojans' final offensive possession. McKnight would not have scored on the play, but his momentum would have carried him near the 10. USC got one first down after McKnight's fumble was recovered by the Trojans at the UW 22. But once Washington settled in, Aaron Corp couldn't produce anything in passing situations. McKnight's fumble enabled the Huskies' defense to gather itself and make the last in a series of gallant, gritty stands.

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