Main storyline: Sarkisian faces the Huskies for the first time since his abrupt departure for USC in December 2013, and he’ll do so before a Thursday-night national TV audience. In five seasons, Sarkisian led UW to a 35-29 record. He now has the Trojans as one of the favorite in the Pac-12, with some projecting them as a preseason top-5 team.
Key players: Fifth-year senior QB Cody Kessler is considered a Heisman front-runner after throwing for 3,826 yards with 39 TD and 5 INT last year. Sophomore WR JuJu Smith, a freshman all-American, might be Pac-12’s No. 1 “breakout” candidate this season. Another sophomore, Adoree Jackson, is a two-way standout poised for a big year, and OLB Su’a Cravens (17 tackles for loss, 5 sacks in 2014) leads what might be the Pac-12’s best group of linebackers.
Key questions: There are big shoes to fill on the Trojans’ D-line with Leonard Williams gone to the NFL, and finding a new featured running back is a top priority for USC heading into fall camp. But USC has cleared the last major hurdle from NCAA sanctions — they signed a full recruiting class this year for the first time since 2011, and the class was considered one of the best in the nation — and expectations are high. Because of all those lost scholarship the past few years, depth will remain a question. But there’s little question that the top-end talent is there.
Series history: USC leads 51-28-4.