Oregon was recently struck like a bolt of lightening to the chest of their program and found themselves pronounced dead one week later. And at the beginning of the ‘03 season the Huskies should have known it would be just a matter of time before the buzzards started circling overhead, when their former head coach Rick Nueheisel had his portrait slapped on cover and put a once respected program on the death list. Even last season, when UW was picked to win the conference, it only took a trip down South for a good ol' fashioned but whippin' to start the current snowball rolling. Huskie football is barely alive and it might just be time for SC to take the ol' dog out back and put him down.
Cody Pickett, UW's rough-and-ready, rodeo ridin' qb, just last week was seen limping up and down the sideline doing his best John Wayne, after the Huskies' "inspired" victory against the vaunted Oregon State Beavers, yelling... ""Everybody turned on us! Husky football ain't dead!" Hmmm, I hate to break it to the UW faithful but young Mr. Pickett is not studying medicine. If he were, a diagnosis like that might be termed "premature," at best. No, by the end of this weekend's matchup against USC, even head coach Keith Gilbertson will be living out the film, The Sixth Sense when he finally makes it back to the Huskie post game locker room... "I see dead people." And it hasn't been that long for the rodeo star, turned quarterback to remember the rough ride he took last season courtesy of Wild Bunch II.
It's never right to dance on another's grave. When SC was struggling, just a few short years ago, the rest of the Pac was near celebration. That bothered me. USC was/is the only reason the Pac Ten has ever gotten any respect from the nation's press. The Pac Ten's founding father, USC, had become old hat - a grandaddy to the up-in-comers like the University of Oregon and this weekend's opponent, the Huskies of the University of Washington. My how the world turns. It appears it's the long ago, dead Trojans who will be doing a jig in the purple and gold mausoleum known as Huskie Stadium.
I know, UW just beat the Beavers of Oregon State, but as decent as that team might be, is that anything to hang a season on? It sure wouldn't have been for Don James, one of the Pac Ten's all time greatest coaches. It probably won't be for Gilbertson's squad either. Nope, they'd feel like the season at least had some shine to it, by pulling one out of the hat when the Trojans come to town. Unfortunately, they don't have the horses to get it done.
Rich Alexis, their top rated recruit who has done nothing since arrriving at the UW, is out with a deep leg bruise. Reggie Williams, has started to remind me more of Brian Poli-Dixon, by talking more game than playing. Nah, he's real good, just not as good as SC's own version of number 1. Their newest game breaker, the long overdue Charles Fredericks, has spent more time in the Huskie dog house than penthouse. He simply doesn't have the mental game yet to be called a leader. That leaves a beat to hell Pickett. At the beginning of this season, UW was preparing a Heisman campaign for the young man. What they didn't realize is that he needed support to get the job done. His offensive line failed to realize that too. Consequently, poor Cody has been running around the gridiron like a cowboy trying to corral a stray pig and getting a face full of mud in the process.
Despite my belief that USC will treat UW much like they have just about everybody else this season and last, this Saturday's game will be all about matchups. Can SC's sieve secondary contain the air attack that UW is sure to mount? Can SC's running game do what OSU and the Pac's "best running back" Steven Jackson could not last week and move the ball? Can Trojan quarterback Matt Leinart avoid the misques and turnovers that befell the Beaver's Derek Anderson? Finally, can USC do what a good Oregon State team could not, and that is win?
The answer to all the above and the one I'd love to give, is a simple "yes." SC is not Oregon State. The Trojans are, once again, the pride of the Pac Ten. They are well coached, self-disciplined and ready to take this program all the way back to where they once resided nationwide - at the top. To do that, they must do what Pete Carroll and his staff have taught them to do - play their game and have fun doing it.
The USC Trojans are on the brink of a ten year run. The game last year against the Huskies was a major part of that coming out party. SC followed that up with convincing wins against their top two rivals and into post season with a dismantling of national contender, Iowa. Great teams don't have lapses. Oklahoma never lets their guard down. SC did once in this season and are paying dearly for it now. They know how hard victory is to come by. They won't abuse the opportunity again.
No, USC will treat UW much like all the other foes who once prayed for the Trojans' demise. They're going to put the old dog down. SC's running game, balanced by the best passing attack in the Pac Ten will be too much for the Huskies to handle. Gilbertson has never helmed a team that has gone up the SC staff. This game could become a resume piece for Norm Chow and the other assistants currently having their names tossed about. This game will provide the momentum to carry USC through the remainder of the season and into their bowl game. It is not one they will look past. And as much as UW would like to prevent the knell in their season's coffin being hammered home, they won't be able to stop it. You can almost hear the flush before the ink dries... "What happened to Huskie football, they once made the cover of a magazine?"
Perhaps it is the SI curse or Slick Rick's, less than Midas touch, but me thinks young Pickett doth protest too much for it is...over, dead, finished, the dog done died.
SC dominates, in a normally tough environment for the boys from Los Angeles.
Final score: SC 41 UW 20