This one is big. Two ranked and unbeaten Pac-12 teams with conference title aspirations clash on a Friday night in primetime. Will WSU snap USC's 13-game win streak? Or will the Trojans expose the Cougars?
No. 16 Cougars (4-0) vs. No. 5 USC (4-0)
When: Friday, Sept. 29, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Martin Stadium, Pullman, Wash.
Radio: 770 AM
Line: USC (-3.5)
WSU Players to Watch
QB Luke Falk – 14 TD
WR Tavares Martin Jr. – 6 TD
LT Andre Dillard – 17 career starts
DT Hercules Mata’afa – 8.0 TFL
SS Jalen Thompson – 3 INT
USC Players to Watch
QB Sam Darnold – 9 TD
RB Ronald Jones – 107.3 rush yards per game
WR Deontay Burnett – 5 TD
LB Cam Smith – 4.5 TFL
LB Uchenna Nwosu – 8 pass breakups
WSU’s Keys to the Game
Get to Darnold
WSU’s best asset in its last three games has been the ferocity of the pass rush. Montana State is the only team the Cougars have played this season that finished the game with its starting quarterback. If Hercules Mata’afa and Frankie Luvu can harass Sam Darnold into making some poor decisions, that will go a long way. Darnold, by the way, has thrown seven interceptions to nine touchdowns. So, Heisman candidacy or not, he’s not exactly infallible.
Start fast and play four quarters
The Cougars haven’t put together a consistently lethal four quarters of play yet. Last week against Nevada, the offense started fast but ended with a whimper. In the two games preceding, they took a few offensive drives to get going. If WSU wants to beat USC, it needs to strike early and often and never let up.
Keep Falk safe and don’t cough up the ball.
WSU’s offensive line has given up 14 sacks in four games. Meanwhile, USC’s defense has had eight sacks and forced 10 turnovers in the Trojans’ last two games. If the Trojans play up to that pattern and manage four sacks on Falk and force five turnovers against the Cougars’ offense, this one will be over quickly.
Establish the run
WSU can’t afford to be one-dimensional against this USC defense. The Cougars need to get their backs involved early to keep the Trojans on their toes. Expect lots of action for Jamal Morrow and James Williams.
Prediction: WSU 31, USC 30