Four Downs: Washington

USC must stop Washington running back Chris Polk, quit the trash talk, and limit the potential of a high-scoring game.

Four Downs: Washington Shut off Keith's price ability to run
Steve Sarkisian has transitioned to a more spread style offense since taking the helm at Washington, using a lot of formations out of the shotgun. With a dual-threat quarterback like Jake Locker, it was easy.

Sophomore quarterback Keith Price hasn't been that guy. But he has proved to be a worthy successor and superior passer. Not only is Price (181 of 271 for 2133 yards and 25 touchdowns) on pace to break UW single-season records for touchdown passes and passing efficiency, he has also rushed the ball 43 times this season.

The Trojans should expect to see Price run on third down, scramble out of the pocket, throw a few bubble screens to tailback Chris Polk or shove it down field to skilled receiver Jermaine Kearse. It doesn't sound complicated. But that plan has been effective in producing wins.

Put Pressure on Polk
Washington's Chris Polk is one of the most complete backs in the nation. He is easily the best tailback USC has faced thus far, being both capable in the backfield and also as a pass-catcher. The 5-foot-11, 222-pound Polk has rushed for more than 1,000 yards and caught at least 22 passes a year in three consecutive seasons.

USC's defensive line has done a good job of stopping the run this season and they will need to do so again these next two games versus Washington and at Oregon.

Trash the Trash Talk
Just play the game of football. Whether it was Washington's defensive coordinator who said, "I'd rather play USC than Oregon, quite honestly" or it was Steve Sarkisian channeling Lou Holtz in saying he would take Matt Barkley over Stanford's Andrew Luck-- if he were an NFL coach--this trash talk is an exterior factor that shouldn't play that big of a role in the game.

While Holt's words might motivate USC, the team might be better off if it doesn't play into the extra stuff. Neither team should be too confident--it looks like it will be an awfully close contest.

Stop the Shootout Before It Begins
While Washington is 102nd in the nation in points against, it is also 31st in points scored. Last week's LSU-Alabama game would never happen with these Huskies, but if USC can play its own game and not allow this to be a shootout the Trojans will come away with the win.

If you take out the Stanford game altogether--where the Cardinal scored a whopping 56 points in three overtimes--USC is limiting opponents to 21.9 points a game (25.7 in all nine games). The lowest score for Washington this season was last week's 34-17 loss against Oregon.

This team puts up numbers. Their quarterback has 25 touchdown passes on the season, being just the second in the school's history to hit that number. If USC's defense can come up big in all phases of the game--against the run, in pass defense, in stopping their quarterback, and thus, limiting Washington from putting numbers on the board, the USC can turn its losing streak against this team around.


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