I wrote earlier in the week that the upcoming game against WSU could be a trap game given a possible letdown after SC's big win against Nebraska. That is still possible but unlikely, as WSU with their porous scoring defense should give SC plenty of opportunities to light the scoreboard up. The coliseum has not been kind to Wazzu in the past. But the fact is while WSU hung in there for a half against Wisconsin their two wins have come against SDSU and the same Idaho team that SC beat up on in week #1. So I would expect much of the same, but there are no guarantees.
I certainly mean no disrespect to the Cougars but it is going to be difficult for them to keep up. I have a lot of respect for Alex Brink, he showed us last year in Pullman that he is the real deal and I can see no reason as to why he won't make some plays with his wide receivers Bumpus, Gibson and Dillon as outstanding targets. Michael Bumpus leads the Pac-10 with 22 catches in three games. A lot of those catches have been over the middle so he is not afraid to take a hit and with being Brinks favorite target you know hey are in sync. Bumpus also wants to make a statement towards SC as they asked to wait a year when they recruited him in order to make room for Dwayne Jarrett. But While Bumpus is a proven threat make no mistakes that none of the receivers are deep threats and they won't be winning any height contests against the SC secondary. That is not to say that they can't make some plays but they are going to go up against a decent secondary that will be looking to make a statement after giving up a ton of yard to Sam Keller last weekend. SC needs to also keep tabs on TE Jed Collins, he has had a pretty good year so far and is a threat underneath and he can also help the running game by making some holes for Dwight Tardy.
Brink is a little like same Keller and he will dink and dunk you just like we saw last weekend if SC doesn't make the proper adjustments. Brink has had a great season to date as I noted earlier this week he leads the Pac-10 with 950 passing yards, more impressive are his completion percentage in his first three games, 63%, 81% and 73% respectively. That is impressive and that is why the SC secondary needs to show up and make the plays that we know that they are capable of making. Brink will get some yards underneath, he doesn't need the deep threat to give SC fits so I wouldn't be surprised if the game took on the appearance of something similar to what we saw against Nebraska last week. The secondary needs to step up and make the statement we all want them to make.
Part of Brinks success has been the Cougars' offensive line setting up the run for just over 4 yards per carry and only allowing 2 sacks on Brink this season. They really showed their stuff in the first half of the Wisconsin game setting up 2 consecutive 80-yard drives so they can move the pile.
Dwight Tardy is WSU's only real threat out of the backfield. He is averaging 100 yards-per-game and has 4 TD's. The problem is he is still THE only threat. He is a forward moving back that has only lost 5 yards this season that means he is always motoring even if he is hit in the backfield. He can get up field if gets an opening and a head of steam and that is where the USC linebackers need to step up and slam the doors shut. Tardy was very successful against SC last season gaining 62 yards on 11 carries, he is also a threat to catch the ball out of the backfield so SC need to be wary of the Wheel Route as it could give Tardy room to run so Doba will probably want to get the ball to Tardy a significant amount of the time.
Te defense on the other hand is where the Cougars will struggle to make some plays if they keep true to form. We saw how Wisconsin was able to almost score on them at will as they gave up 180 yards and 3 TD's on the ground. They have also played against lesser teams that don't have the talent of what you will normally see in the Pac-10 so their defensive numbers are padded a bit. Their linebackers led by Greg Trent in the middle are similar to the Nebraska linebackers but not quite as talented. They will need to come up and help fill the holes with the defensive line and they have had some success at doing that but if they need to drop into pass coverage it could get ugly as this is a weak spot for Trent so look for SC to light the middle up continually. They will also have a tough time handling Havili and Fred Davis so expect to see the running game flourish in the early parts of the game and then the passing game kick into gear a little later.
Once SC goes to the air look for Booty to pick on all aspects of the Cougars secondary. Cornerbacks Nwachukwu and Giles have been torched a lot this season and the safeties Jackson and Abdullah have also been susceptible to giving up the big play. This is where the SC receiving corps needs to make their statement. They have an opportunity to finally answer some questions and be a part of this offense. If SC is able to set up the run similar to how they did against Nebraska this secondary should be a lot easier to exploit in the air so I would expect to see them have a big game.
So how will it turn out?
SC needs to keep the fire burning and not let themselves go through a let down. Brink will make some plays and we know what he is capable of but even if he is lights out the WSU defense will give up more and because the WSU secondary is more susceptible to giving up the big play than what we saw against Nebraska last week this could get ugly quick.
USC 42 Washington St. 17