Five things to watch: Washington at No. 17 USC


Here are five things of note headed into Thursday night's game between No. 17 USC and Washington, which kicks off at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN.

1. Reunion, Part II: Washington coach Chris Petersen had his “awkward” return to Boise State earlier this season and while Thursday’s game between the Huskies and USC is in Los Angeles, it still promises to be a unique game forUSC coach Steve Sarkisian, who was the Washington head coach from 2009-13. The Huskies’ upperclassmen are all players he brought to Seattle and many of the younger ones – such as true freshman quarterback Jake Browning – were recruited to Washington before he bolted for USC, where he was an assistant from 2005-08. Whether the familiarity will play a factor in the game is hard to say, but if Washington's players are just a bit more amped-up, it will be easy to understand why. In 24 games between the schools with USC as a ranked team, the Trojans are 22-2, and one of those losses came with Sarkisian on the other sideline.

2. Covering JuJu Smith-Schuster and Adoree’ Jackson: With cornerback Kevon Seymour expected to play for USC, Jackson won’t be as counted on as heavily on defense, which should free him up to play more at receiver. This should be terrifying news for Washington. When USC quarterback Cody Kessler has targeted Smith-Schuster or Jackson this year, he has completed 87.5 percent of his passes (34-for-39) for 730 yards and seven touchdowns without an interception, according to ESPN Stats & Information. All five of those incompletions were on passes intended for Smith-Schuster, which leaves Kessler a perfect 7-for-7 for 193 yards and a score when targeting Jackson. See? Terrifying.

3. Washington’s defense has been tough: In three games against FBS opponents – two of which were Boise State and Cal – the Huskies have allowed 4.56 yards per play, which is the best number in the Pac-12. The 1.44 points per drive they’ve allowed is only bettered by USC (1.37), and no team in the conference has allowed fewer touchdowns per drive (15.4 percent). The Huskies have missed 21 tackles this season, which is tied with Stanford for the second fewest in the Pac-12. The two passing touchdowns they’ve allowed is tied for second-fewest in FBS.

4. Downtown Browning? Among the 54 Power 5 quarterbacks who have attempted a minimum 20 passes that travled at least 20 yards downfield, Browning has completed the fourth-highest percentage (54.5). He’s averaging 16 yards per attempt on such passes, which trails only Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, Cal’s Jared Goff and Ole Miss’ Chad Kelly.

5. Playing during the week: Since 2004, USC is 9-1 in weekday games during the regular season, which is the best winning percentage in FBS during that time among teams that have played at least six games. The Trojans’ last weekday loss came at Oregon State in 2008; they have won eight straight since then. Washington, during that span, is 5-3 in weekday games.