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For all the handwringing around the Washington football program, for all the apprehension surrounding the schedule and unease regarding whether or not quarterback Keith Price will begin to play as well as he did last season, it's easy to forget that the Huskies are ahead of schedule.
While things may not have played out exactly as Husky fans had hoped, the team has only lost two games, both to teams ranked No. 2 in the country on game day. Throw in a win over then No. 8 Stanford and the Huskies are sitting pretty, with a chance still to go 4-2 in the first half of the season, better than anyone expected.
And that's what makes this game against USC so important; if the Huskies can beat the Trojans for the third time in four years, the Huskies could legitimately run the table, and possibly have the chance at a BCS bowl.
It seems crazy to think about, and it probably is. Most rating services have the UW in the middle of the conference, and not particularly highly ranked nationally. A pair of blowouts on ESPN will do that to a team.
But at the same time, this a team that seemingly gets better every week, as an offensive line full of backups gets more experience together and a surprisingly stout defense gains confidence.
If the team is able to pull the upset against the Trojans, then suddenly a trip to the desert to face Arizona - whom the Huskies have beaten two out of the past three years - doesn't seem as daunting.
The Huskies get No. 10 Oregon State at home, and possibly without their quarterback, as Sean Mannion recovers from a knee injury.
While a lot would have to go right for the Huskies, it's not unreasonable to believe they'd be favored in every game they played after beating USC, as long as they continue to win, of course.
The Huskies do that, and they'll finish 10-2. Meanwhile, Oregon, the presumed representative for the North in the Pac-12 Championship Game, has a stretch in which it must visit USC and Cal, host Stanford, and then visit OSU for what looks to be the most epic Civil War since 2009, when the game decided which school would attend the Rose Bowl.
If the Ducks falter in two of those games and the Huskies win out, then the UW could have a shot to play for their first Rose Bowl in over a decade.
But, it's all academic, because first the Huskies have to pull the upset at home against the Trojans.