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Trap Game

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Much like all the pre-season hype that surrounded USC, the past couple of days have seen story after story commenting on USC's big win against Nebraska. CFR has his weekly pundit roundup and there is no shortage of articles on USC this week. All this attention is mind boggling but the difference here is that at least all the talk that surrounds SC this week is in response to a game that SC played against a traditional college football power and not some game against a lesser opponent. Once again Pete Carroll and his staff will have keep things on an even keel and keep the players focused with Washington State coming to the coliseum this weekend.

Wazzu played SC tough last year up at the Palouse and Alex Brink is decent QB who was able to make some plays against a very good SC defense last year. This year the Cougars come to LA to see if they can grab a win. Of course with Michigan's loss to App. St. and ucla's loss to Utah among some other wacky wins there is always the chance that a team can sneak up and catch you napping. SC obviously saw this against Oregon St. and ucla in 2006 and with the other games I mentioned above there are no guarantees. It has always been said that teams "get up" to play top level opponents, ucla showed us that. They want to bring their "A" game to see if David can knock off Goliath. This is one such game, a trap game, if you will.

The 2-0 Trojans, despite having several key players missing or limited due to injuries, have played droves of reserves to help keep the scores respectable while thumping Idaho 38-10 and then-No. 14 Nebraska 49-31.

"I'd rather not play them," Doba said with a laugh. "No, I look at it as a challenge and a great opportunity. How many times in a college player's lifetime will they have a chance to play the No. 1 team in the nation?"

The 2-1 Cougars are encouraged on two fronts. One, they gave the Trojans one of their toughest games in recent years in a 28-22 loss in Pullman last season. Secondly, WSU ranks 16th in the nation with 315.7 passing yards per game, and USC ranks 90th in passing yards allowed at 272.0.

Cougars quarterback Alex Brink ranks in the top 10 nationally in completion percentage (73.6, fifth), touchdown passes (10, tied for eighth) and passing yards (947, 10th). Brink leads the Pac-10 in all three categories, and WSU wide receivers Brandon Gibson and Michael Bumpus rank 1-2 in receiving yards and 2-1 in receptions.

"This is the best I've seen him (Brink) play since I've been here," Bumpus said. "Everything looks easy for him."

This is an interesting Wazzu team, they played tough against Wisconsin for a half before falling by the wayside. They handled Idaho and San Diego State with ease and they have shown that they can hang with SC. They are also a little like Nebraska in the sense that they have a good QB in Brink who leads the Pac-10 in passing (averaging 315.7 yards a game) and total offense (330.3). Brink has a good receiver in Michael Bumpus who had 118 receiving yards against Idaho and Dwight Tardy who can also run the ball, Tardy had 108 yards rushing against Idaho and is averaging a little over 5 yards per carry. The defense, like Nebraska, has some issues.

The Cougars (2-1) are 24-point underdogs against the Trojans (2-0), who demolished Nebraska 49-31 on the road last Saturday.

The Cougars will show up in Los Angeles ranking last in the Pac-10 in scoring defense, allowing an average of 29 points in three games.

One of the many problems for the Cougars' defense has been slow starts. In first quarters so far, the unit has allowed 38 points -- 14-10-14.

That has the potential to be a long day for the Cougars if they old true to form.

But I am more worried about a mini let down with USC. All the pre-season hype let the impression that SC either came out flat or simply didn't care when they played against Idaho. Two weeks off preparing for Nebraska and all the nay sayers questioning whether or not SC should be ranked #1 put the Trojans in a bad mood and they took their frustrations out on the Cornhuskers. It is easy to conceive that with that emotional win that SC could once again come out flat. I'm not worried about that happening but one can never be to sure.

On the flip side USC has really impressed a lot of people with their win over Nebraska and there is no reason to think that with what they showed on Saturday they could run at will.

Remember when the running game was the biggest question mark for these Trojans? Of course you do. It was yesterday.

Guess you can scratch that one.

In a stadium that's seen its share of overpowering rushing performances -- more commonly by the home team -- USC's running game was so powerful Saturday that, "we didn't have to throw the ball at all," said Carroll. Indeed, Trojans quarterback John David Booty (19-of-30, 144 yards, two touchdowns), who entered the season as one of the nation's leading Heisman candidates, got upstaged by Stafon Johnson, who entered fall camp as the Trojans' seventh-string tailback.

Most impressively, USC did it exactly the same way their opponent did for decades on this same, Memorial Stadium field: with an overpowering offensive line opening gaping holes for its runners.

"I haven't seen holes as big as those since I've been here," Johnson declared following an eye-opening 11-carry, 144-yard performance. "I was like a kid at a candy store."

There is the possibility that SC will continue to run at will if the Offensive Line continues to play they way they did that night.

I'm confident that SC will do well but I want to make sure that they stay focused on the task at hand.

We'll see...