Washington Coach Steve Sarkisian, right, speaks with quarterback Keith… (Joe Nicholson / U.S. Presswire )
USC opens the difficult final quarter of its season by trying to defeat Washington for the first time in three seasons. The Huskies have won 10 of their last 13 games, losing only to Nebraska, Stanford and Oregon. Staff writer Gary Klein examines the game's issues and matchups:
Friends and rivals
USC Coach Lane Kiffin this week dismissed questions about his wanting to beat Washington Coach Steve Sarkisian, saying it was about the players, the teams and everything other than his friend and former colleague.
Don't buy it.
Kiffin and Sarkisian used to share office space in Heritage Hall. They were bred to compete against common opponents and each other.
Sarkisian is 2-0 against the Trojans. Washington fans stormed the field at Husky Stadium after he led his team past mentor Pete Carroll and the Trojans in 2009. The celebration was more muted but perhaps more moving for Sarkisian after the Huskies defeated Kiffin at the Coliseum last season.
"Last year," Sarkisian said, "was probably a bit more emotional, quite honestly, being in Southern California in front of friends and family in that same stadium that I'd had so many great moments with 'SC, as well as a couple tough moments and bad losses that occurred too."
Trinity League redux
Back in 2008, Matt Barkley and Keith Price were quarterbacks in the Trinity League, Barkley at Santa Ana Mater Dei High, Price at Bellflower St. John Bosco.
They meet again.
Barkley will make his 34th start Saturday and is on pace to finish with the best passing season in USC history. He has passed for 28 touchdowns with five interceptions, and is coming off a record-breaking six-touchdown performance against Colorado.
Robert Woods and Marqise Lee each caught two touchdown passes and amassed more than 100 yards receiving last week.
Price is in his first season as a starter. He has passed for 25 touchdowns with 10 interceptions, and is looking to rebound from last week's performance against Oregon. Though he passed for two touchdowns against the Ducks, he also had two passes intercepted and was sacked six times.
Senior receiver Jermaine Kearse is Price's favorite target.
Washington running back Chris Polk has averaged 121.8 yards rushing a game, which ranks second in the Pac-12 Conference and seventh nationally. The former Redlands East Valley High star has caught 24 passes.
Polk gained 92 yards and scored a touchdown last season against the Trojans.
USC might use a tailback committee against the Huskies.
Curtis McNeal is expected to start for the second game in a row but senior Marc Tyler also appears ready after sitting out against Colorado because of a sore shoulder.
Freshman Amir Carlisle and redshirt freshman D.J. Morgan played well against Colorado. Both could be mixed in against the Huskies.
For the second consecutive week, USC will start three freshmen at linebacker. This group could be even stronger than the trio that started against Colorado.
First-year freshman Lamar Dawson is in the middle, flanked by redshirt freshmen Dion Bailey and Hayes Pullard.
Dawson is making his second start. Bailey, the Trojans' leading tackler, is returning from a concussion.
Washington's linebacker corps is led by senior Cort Dennison, who had 10 tackles against Oregon, the fifth time this season he has recorded 10 or more.
Just for kicks
It won't be a surprise if kickers decide the outcome.
USC freshman Andre Heidari has made 13 of 15 field-goal attempts.
Washington's Erik Folk, who kicked game-winning field goals against the Trojans in each of the last two seasons, has made nine of 11.
Folk said this week that several extended family members were USC fans and were not happy about his game-winning kicks.
"I saw lot of my family over summer and had to get a lot of grief from them," he said. "A lot of my friends are UCLA fans so they were kind of congratulating me."
USC leads the series against Washington, 49-28-4. … Walk-on tight end Michael Cox is USC's only player from Washington. The Huskies have 47 players from California.