Washington-Southern Cal Preview

BY foxsports • November 8, 2011

During his weekly press conference, Washington coach Steve Sarkisian said he'd take USC's Matt Barkley over Stanford's Andrew Luck in next year's NFL draft.

It's likely that few in football share those sentiments - even after Barkley's prolific efforts last week - but Sarkisian may not have wanted to miss an opportunity for some gamesmanship with a player he helped recruit.

Coming off a record-setting performance, Barkley looks to help the 18th-ranked Trojans avoid a third consecutive loss to their former offensive coordinator and the Huskies when the teams meet Saturday at the Coliseum.

With Barkley under center, USC (7-2, 4-2 Pac-12) has established one of the more potent passing attacks in the country. The junior quarterback is tied for third in the FBS with 28 passing touchdowns and ranks 12th with an average of 289.8 yards.

Barkley was at his best last Friday, completing 25 of 39 passes for 318 yards and a school-record six TDs, leading the Trojans to a 42-17 win at Colorado.

"It means a lot," he said of the record. "We had five quite a bit now and to finally get six is a pretty cool feeling."

Barkley could be in for another big day against a Washington defense surrendering a conference-worst 283.1 yards per game through the air.

Sarkisian, though, may be trying to flatter the player he helped bring to Los Angeles during his time as USC's top assistant before he arrived in Seattle in 2009.

"If I'm an NFL head coach right now I'd pick Matt Barkley ahead of Andrew Luck," Sarkisian said. "I think where he fits into the NFL in his pocket presence and what (Trojans coach) Lane (Kiffin) is doing with him, the variety of offense they are playing with, his ability to make all of the throws, throwing them on time and to them accurately. He's fantastic to me."

While the Huskies (6-3, 4-2) have sometimes struggled to slow down opposing quarterbacks, it was their inability to stop the run that led to a 34-17 loss to No. 6 Oregon last Saturday. They gave up 212 yards on the ground and three rushing TDs.

Their own running back Chris Polk - seventh in the nation with 121.8 rushing yards per game - was held to fewer than 100 for just the second time this season, compiling 80 yards on 24 carries. Keith Price threw for 143 yards and two touchdowns but was picked off twice and sacked a career-worst six times.

"Lot of mistakes, lot of mental errors, and we've just got to clean it up this next week," said Price, a Los Angeles-area native. "... It was horrible. Obviously, nobody likes losing. We've just got to keep going."

The Huskies have been outscored 150-76 while going 0-3 versus ranked teams this season. They've committed nine turnovers in those games while forcing just two.

"At this point, I don't think games are too big for our guys. We are used to playing Top 25 teams," Sarkisian said. "That seems to happen every other week in this conference - and here comes another one."

Washington has dropped four straight on the road against ranked opponents since limiting Barkley to 186 passing yards during a last-second 32-31 win at then-No. 18 USC on Oct. 2, 2010. The Huskies also defeated the Trojans 16-13 on Sept. 19, 2009, the first time the teams met following Sarkisian's departure from USC.

Saturday's visit to Los Angeles marks just the second time in the last 76 years that the Huskies will face USC on the road in consecutive seasons.

"We're going to try and go down there this week and do something that hasn't been done before since (1934 and '35): That's beat USC two times in a row, for Washington on the road at the Coliseum. And we'll see if we can get it done," Sarkisian said.

For the Huskies to avoid losing back-to-back games for the first time all season, they'll likely need to slow down USC receiver Robert Woods. The standout sophomore, who ranks second in the FBS with 90 catches, has 705 receiving yards and seven TD receptions in five home games.

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