Kiffin steering clear of the spotlight

USC coach Lane Kiffin, who was deliberately loud and bombastic in his one season at Tennessee last year, now is enjoying the relative quiet of being under the radar. For sure, it's hard for a program as visible as USC's to go about its business without making a lot of noise, but that's what the Trojans have done.

Kiffin - who last year thought any and all attention was good for the Vols - has toned down his act. His team has started 4-0, 1-0 in the Pac-10, without having flashy scores and jaw-dropping highlights.

"We have gotten plenty of attention in the offseason," said Kiffin, "so we're fine with not getting much attention and just trying to get better week to week."

But the Trojans can't hide from the spotlight forever, and the lights begin to shine brighter this week with a visit from the Washington Huskies, who enter at 1-2 with disappointing losses at BYU and vs. Nebraska.

USC's game against Washington last year -- which the Huskies won 16-13 in Seattle in the third week of the season -- seemed to mark the end of the Trojans' era of dominance in the Pac-10. USC went on to finish just 5-4 in the conference and was relegated to the Emerald Bowl after a record seven consecutive Pac-10 championships.

"There was a lot of conversation about that game in the offseason with the players," Kiffin said.

"But the teams are very different," the coach added, noting that quarterback Matt Barkley and receiver Ronald Johnson didn't play against Washington last season because of injuries. "We have a ton of new players. This is a much different game."

--USC coach Lane Kiffin's strong friendship with Washington coach Steve Sarkisian is one of the sidebars to this week's matchup at the Coliseum. Kiffin said Tuesday that he had sent a couple of text messages to Sarkisian early in the week, but that the Huskies coach had not responded. "So, I don't know what trick he is up to," Kiffin said. "He is probably trying to show how busy he is." Sarkisian was asked on the Pac-10 coaches teleconference about not replying to Kiffin. "Well, that's not true," he said.

--USC has a 32-game winning streak in home night games, although that streak was officially reduced to 16 because of vacated wins due to NCAA sanctions.

--Kiffin is trying to become the third coach in USC history to start his career 5-0. The others were Harvey Jones (1904) and Jess Hill (1951).

SERIES HISTORY: USC leads Washington 49-27-4 (last meeting, 2009, 16-13 Washington).

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: USC's strength so far has been its running attack that features a number of tailbacks, including Allen Bradford, Dillon Baxter and Marc Tyler and fullback Stanley Havili, who is plenty dangerous as a single back. The Trojans are averaging 218.5 yards per game, 21st in the nation, and will take aim at a Washington unit that is among the worst against the run, yielding 213.67 yards per game. QB Matt Barkley hasn't been prolific, but he has been proficient and he has the tools and the surrounding cast to bust out for a 300-yard game if opponents overplay the run.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: Coach Lane Kiffin said he has seen gradual improvement on the field after a near-debacle in the opener at Hawaii, and he added that the unit is getting healthier, too. The Trojans don't have the depth they used to have, but their front-line athletes are still pretty good and they have gotten good play from true freshman CB Nickell Robey. USC has allowed only 970 yards in the past three games against Virginia, Minnesota and Washington State. None of those teams is an offensive juggernaut, but this week's opponent, Washington, hasn't exactly been clicking behind senior QB Jake Locker, either.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "He is going to talk up there about how deep we are, which is a trick I think he learned from Lou Holtz or someone. People who follow us know we're not very deep." -- USC coach Lane Kiffin, on Washington coach Steve Sarkisian, who this week called the Trojans the most talented team in the Pac-10.

THIS WEEK'S GAME: Washington at USC, Oct. 2 -- The Huskies were about a three-touchdown underdog last season when they won 16-13 on Erik Folk's 22-yard field goal with three seconds left. That snapped a 12-game winning streak for USC, which wasn't quite the same after that. Now, the Trojans are trying to turn the tables and use a feel-good victory over the Huskies to go 5-0 and launch themselves into the meat of their schedule.

KEYS TO THE GAME: Washington has had two weeks to prepare for USC after suffering a 56-21 loss to Nebraska. USC doesn't have a secondary like the Corhhuskers have, but the Trojans will be looking to change up their looks and confuse QB Jake Locker as much as possible; he's still prone to poor judgment on some of his throws. He's also capable of winning the game with his arm and his legs, so USC has to try to rattle him early.

QB Matt Barkley -- He has appeared to be in much more command as a sophomore, ranking 14th nationally in passing efficiency with a rating of 166.65. He has completed 71 of 109 passes for 941 yards, with 12 touchdowns and four interceptions.

CB Shareece Wright -- The senior hasn't been challenged all that much because a true freshman, Nickell Robey, is on the other side. But he'll have to be ready, because Washington has a big-play threat in Jermaine Kearse, who has five touchdown receptions in three games.

FB Stanley Havili -- An always underrated threat, Havili got notice last week for his 59-yard touchdown run against Washington State. He excels in all areas -- blocking, running and catching the ball. "He is unique because he can do everything," coach Lane Kiffin said.

--DT Armond Armstead (sprained shoulder) did not play last week against Washington State, when he really wasn't needed. He'll be ready for Washington this Saturday.

--DE Wes Horton (back) left the Washington State game. His status was undetermined as of early in the week. Top Stories