SEATTLE – No. 17 Washington has bounced back from a surprising home loss to California in its Pac-12 Conference opener with convincing non-conference wins over Hawaii and BYU. The Huskies, who begin the week tied for fourth in the Pac-12 North, can ill afford another slip-up in conference play when they welcome 25th-ranked USC on Saturday afternoon.
TV: 3:30 p.m. ET, FOX. LINE: Washington -10
The Trojans are already off to a 2-0 start in conference play and come in off a an impressive 30-23 home win over preseason conference favorite Utah on Friday night. USC, which has won five of its last six visits to Seattle, knocked off the Utes despite losing freshman quarterback Kedon Slovis -- who was replacing injured season-opening starter JT Daniels (knee) -- on the second play of the game to a concussion which kept him out of practice early this week. However, there was little if any drop-off as Matt Fink, who began the season No. 3 on the depth chart after briefly considering transferring to Illinois, came in to carve up the vaunted Utes defense for 351 yards and three touchdowns. "It's kind of surreal," Fink, a 6-foot-3, 200-pound junior, told reporters after practice on Tuesday. "It's an amazing opportunity for me and the team to keep getting better, keep moving forward and winning games."
ABOUT USC (3-1, 2-0 Pac-12)
With Slovis still not medically cleared to play, Fink was the only scholarship quarterback to practice Tuesday and is backed up by junior walk-on Brandon Perdue, a transfer from New Mexico Military Institute, with wide receiver Tyler Vaughns, who threw a touchdown pass last season, the emergency option. The Trojans have one of the nation's top wide receiving corps led by Vaughns, who ranks in the top 25 nationally in receptions (27) and receiving yards (370), senior Michael Pittman Jr., who had 10 catches for 232 yards and a touchdown against Utah, and sophomore Amon-Ra St. Brown (19 catches, 207 yards, 3 TDs). The defense is led by linebackers John Houston Jr. (35 tackles) and Palaie Gaoteote IV (32 tackles) and safety Talanoa Hufanga (42 tackles), the latter who began the week in concussion protocol after finishing with 14 tackles against Utah.
ABOUT WASHINGTON (3-1, 0-1)
Quarterback Jacob Eason, a transfer from Georgia who was the 2016 National Gatorade Player of the Year, bounced back from a rough outing against Cal (18-of-30, 162 yards, 1 interception) to pass for three TDs against both Hawaii and BYU. "I think he's seeing it," Washington coach Chris Petersen said. "He's commanding our offense better. There's still areas that we're tightening up. It's one thing knowing on the chalkboards, it's another when looks are changing, how we're calling things, always game planning and there is a lot there on a quarterbacks plate." The Huskies could again be without starting running back Salvon Ahmed (44 carries, 246 yards, two TDs) who sat out the BYU game with a leg injury and is "week to week" according to Petersen.
1. This is the first time since 2016 that the two teams have played due to the Pac-12's scheduling rotation. USC, which leads the series, 51-29-4, won the last meeting over the No. 4 ranked Huskies, 26-13, in Seattle behind two scoring passes by Sam Darnold.
2. USC last shutout loss was at Washington in 1997, 27-0.
3. Washington hasn't allowed an opponent to score more than 35 points in a game since a 44-30 loss at UCLA in 2014, a streak of 60 straight games.
PREDICTION: Washington 28, USC 21