It's been a tough stretch at the start of the 2012 season for the USC road warriors, with a span of four out of five early-season games on the road.
Saturday's matchup against the Washington Huskies in Seattle represents the final game of that span, and it's one that certainly provides the Trojans with some genuine tests.
After opening up at home against Hawaii, USC made its first road trip with a cross-country journey to New Jersey for a game at MetLife Stadium against Syracuse. The Orange weren't expected to be the strongest of opponents, but there were other appealing aspects of this game in terms of playing in the Big Apple and in an NFL stadium. The trip involved an extra day of travel, some delays due to weather and a half-empty stadium that was devoid of energy. The Trojans were able to avoid those pitfalls and came away with the victory.
The next trip was a short one up north for a game against the Stanford Cardinal. This was the first big game of the season, a team that had beaten USC three years in a row and was considered a genuine obstacle on the Trojans path to a potential undefeated season. It was thought that thiswould be the game where the country found out what these Trojans were all about, but untimely injuries for Khaled Holmes and Andre Heidari hurt USC in critical ways on the way to a crushing loss.
After a quick trip home for a game against Cal, the Trojans had a bye before heading to Salt Lake City, Utah, for a Thursday night game against the Utah Utes. It was billed as the biggest home game in Utah history, and the crowd was fired up to welcome the Trojans. The problems prior USC teams have had with Thursday night games had been well documented, and this trip offered all sorts of opportunities for issues, especially after two early turnovers resulted in a 14-0 deficit within a matter of minutes. The Trojans eventually righted the ship and cruised to a victory but it wasn't exactly easy.
Now it's time to hop on a plane once again, a routine that is sure to feel familiar to these players by now. But for college players, who have classes and homework assignments in addition to practice and football meetings. These road trips alter the normal routine and can be unsettling for people who love to live within the framework of a football program. Not to mention theflights, the hotel beds and the hostile crowds that await.
The atmosphere on Saturday should be no different for the Trojans. The Huskies are playing their home games this year at CenturyLink Field -- the home of the Seattle Seahawks that is known as one of the loudest stadiums in the NFL. It's doubtful this one will be half full like the stadium in New Jersey -- this one is likely to be filled with fans barking like crazy for their team.
Steve Sarkisian is trying to bring the Huskies back to the top of the Pac-12 Conference, but he's not quite there yet. A huge win over Stanford is book-ended by losses to LSU and Oregon. Now it's time to host the Trojans with all the added emotion that comes with that rivalry. Washingtonwill be looking for revenge after getting beat last year at the Coliseum while USC looks to continue on its march back to the top of the rankings.
The Washington game will also mark the end of the first half of the 2012 season and -- no matter where they stand -- the Trojans will beable to say they have earned it after traveling a tough road through the first six games of the year.