The weeks are counting down until fall camp begins for the USC football team the first week of August. During each of the in-between weeks, we've been offering up an early first look at the 12 scheduled opponents for the 2011 season, in chronological order. We began with Minnesota, Utah and Syracuse, continued the next three weeks with Arizona State, Arizona, and Cal and added Notre Dame, Stanford and Colorado recently. We now present Washington, who the Trojans will play at home on Saturday, Nov. 12:
History: Three Pac-12 teams have beaten USC the last two times they matched up: Stanford, Oregon and Washington.
The Huskies memorably upset the Trojans in September 2009 when then-freshman Matt Barkley missed the game because of a shoulder bruise and Aaron Corp struggled in his place. Then, last October, Washington beat USC on a last-second field goal -- again -- from kicker Erik Folk, taking advantage of a miss by USC's Joe Houston on the previous possession.
Both games were decided on the final play, and both were the Trojans' first losses of their respective seasons. If this game ends up USC's first loss in 2011, the Trojans will have had a super-successful year, but that's beside the point.
Historically, USC leads the series 49-28-4. The last time Washington beat the Trojans three times straight was in 1990-1992. On the topic of streaks, USC has twice defeated the Huskies at least seven times straight, in1965-1974 and 2002-2008. Washington's best run was five consecutive victories in the 1930s.
Offense: Washington was carried by quarterback Jake Locker in last year's game at the Coliseum. Coach (and offensive playcaller) Steve Sarkisian probably won't have that same benefit this season when he turns to true sophomore Keith Price as his starter.
Price, a Bellflower St. John Bosco High product, did well in limited opportunities behind Locker last season but has little starting experience. In eight games in 2010, he threw 37 total passes and completed 19 of them for two touchdowns and no interceptions. Most of those numbers came in his lone start at Oregon in November.
His receiving options are plentiful: senior Jermaine Kearse, a 1,000-yard guy in 2010, is in the conversation as best Pac-12 receiver with Arizona's Juron Criner and USC's Robert Woods. Devin Aguilar, another senior receiver, is a steady talent. Incoming freshman Austin Seferian-Jenkins is gigantic -- 6 feet 6, 250 pounds -- and might start at tight end right away.
But the Huskies' offense will be based around junior running back Chris Polk, a Redlands East Valley High alum who was second in the conference in rushing last season behind Oregon's LaMichael James. He averaged 20 carries a game last year and could get even more in 2011.
The offensive line is middle of the road for the conference, with converted defensive tackle Senio Kelemete the most interesting player as a potential NFL left tackle. Junior center Drew Schaefer started 11 games in 2010.
Defense: Mammoth defensive tackle Alameda Ta'amu is the Huskies' best defender, a 6-3, 330-pound run-stopping machine who some experts list as a preseason Pac-12 first-team pick. Senior Everette Thompson joins him on the line as a potential award-winner. He had a sack against the Trojans in 2010.
Middle linebacker Cort Dennison averaged eight tackles a game last year, but the other two expected starters in the linebacking corps, Thomas Tutogi and Garrett Gilliland, have just six tackles at the major-college level.
Tutogi picked Washington over USC as a juco early-enrollee in January. Gilliland is a product of Orange Lutheran.
The secondary is talented. Cornerbacks Desmond Trufant and Quinton Richardson each started all 13 games last season, as did free safety Nathan Fellner. Strong safety Sean Parker, an L.A. native and Harbor City Narbonne High graduate, didn't start as a freshman in 2010 but played nickel back for much of the year.
Former USC assistant Nick Holt is the Huskies' defensive coordinator.
Special teams/special circumstances: Folk, the local kid (Sherman Oaks Notre Dame High) who has twice kicked the Trojans into defeat, returns for his senior season. Bakersfield native Will Mahan missed most of last season but punted in 2009 and is expected to handle the duties again in 2011.
Senior Cody Bruns handles the punt return and holding duties. Sophomore running back Jesse Callier runs back kicks and backs up Polk in the backfield.
That's it for this week. Oregon will come next week and the season finale against UCLA will be squeezed into the short week before fall camp.