USC Trojans at Washington Huskies, Saturday Nov. 12, 7:30 p.m. ET
This game has ridden a rollercoaster - and it hasn't even been played yet. Before the season this one stood out on the schedule as a big one - one that could define the race for the conference and maybe more. Then, as USC completely forgot how to play football early in the season, it seemed like the game meant nothing. Now USC is back on track (for now, at least), and Washington is in the middle of the playoff hunt, and this is again a really big conference game. The Pac-12 may not be particularly deep or good, but at least it's never dull.
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Both teams need to win this game. There is no way around that fact. For Washington a loss would be the end of their playoff aspirations. The Pac-12 just isn't strong enough this year for them to get in with just one loss unless all of the other contenders were to lose more. USC has one more loss than surprising division leader Colorado. They beat the Buffaloes, so they have the tiebreak on their side, but Colorado isn't likely to lose at Arizona, so a third conference loss wouldn't give the Buffs the division, but it would come close. So, this game doesn't set up quite like many would have expected before the season started, but it is very important nonetheless.
USC at Washington Betting Storylines
If you had looked ahead to this game six or seven weeks ago then surely you would have guessed that the key storyline would have been a massive disparity in quarterback talent. Jake Browning, Washington's signal caller, started the season like he ended last year - red hot - and he hasn't cooled down. He is the heart of the Heisman race - though, like everyone else, has no chance of catching Lamar Jackson barring a major collapse. USC, meanwhile, started the season with horrid QB play from Max Browne. Since redshirt freshman Sam Darnold has taken over, though, it's like this is a whole new team. Darnold has been brilliant, throwing 18 touchdown passes and just three interceptions as a starter. He's been so good, in fact, that Browne is reportedly set to transfer after the season. Darnold is the biggest reason the Trojans have won five in a row and the biggest reason that this game is as potentially interesting as it is. He's had some luck coming into this one, too. Joe Mathis, Washington's best pass rusher, is lost for the season with a foot injury. It's not a fatal blow for Washington. But it's not meaningless, either.
While there is not a massive imbalance at quarterback, the Huskies definitely have a distinct advantage on the sidelines. Chris Petersen worked wonders at Boise State, and his time at Washington has proven that nothing about that was a fluke. Clay Helton, meanwhile, was a horrible choice for the head job at USC, and his contract is just plain ridiculous. This winning streak has all but certainly earned him another year, but all that does is delay the inevitable - he's just not up to this job. If the game comes down to coaching decisions it's not going to be a fair fight.
USC at Washington Odds and Betting Trends
The game opened with Washington favored by 8. More than 60 percent of bets have come in on the Huskies, so it makes sense that the line has climbed to nine points in early betting action. Given the bet distribution in the early action it's hard to imagine the line moving through the key number of 10 at this point without significant news on one side or the other.
The Trojans are 4-1 ATS in their last five games - all conference games. They are, however, a really lousy 5-12 ATS in their last 17 games following a straight up win and an ugly 8-21 ATS in their last 29 road games. The Huskies are 6-2 ATS in their last eight games in November and 8-3 ATS in their last 11 played on Fieldturf.
USC at Washington Predictions and Picks
The Trojans' five-game winning streak is not as impressive as it seems. Colorado is the only particularly impressive win over that time. Colorado is one of four decent teams the Trojans have played this year and the only one they have beaten. Washington hasn't played the toughest schedule by any means, but they beat Utah comfortably and dominated Stanford - two teams that beat USC. USC is probably more talented on paper, but that hasn't always played out on the field. Washington is better coached, more disciplined, and more proven against legitimate opponents this year. And they are at home in what should be a frenzied environment. I expect the Huskies to be ready to make a statement, and a comfortable win here would indeed be one. Take the Huskies - at less than 10 points they are particularly attractive.
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