For the second week in a row USC will face off against an undefeated conference foe: the Trojans will be heading to Pullman, Washington to face off against #16 Washington State. Us staffers here at Conquest Chronicles take a crack at predicting what may happen this week - let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
Josh: If you run it, the wins will come.
This season is flying by, isn’t it? We are already on week 5 and that’s sort of mind-blowing to me. Anyways, this week the Trojans may be facing their toughest test for the season (save any PAC-12 Championship or College Football Playoff game).
Luke Falk and the Washington State Cougars will be hosting Sam Darnold and his USC Trojans and I expect this one to be a shootout - which, if you’re a Trojan fan, should worry you a little bit. Although undefeated on the season, both the Trojan offense and defense have - at times - been shaky. I am concerned about USC’s recent runs of inconsistent play and this is a matchup where any mistakes made can be exploited by a high-powered offense on the other end.
I think it's going to come down to the strength of the run game. It has been reported that Ronald Jones is going to "try and play" against WSU. If he isn't at 100% then expect fellow running back Stephen Carr to have a big day.
Wazzu will put up a fight and they will come close to pulling off the upset but Sam Darnold will shine late and the Trojans will move to 5-0.
USC tops WSU, 38-35
Matthew: Weeknight Games And A Dangerous Team
I’m not going to lie here, this is a game that makes me very nervous especially seeing it when the schedule came out. Washington State brings a true Air Raid, Pass, Pass, Pass offense so I expect the secondary to really be tested here. The biggest unknown here is the USC offense. The Trojans offense has been getting off to slow starts and prone to turnovers, however they’ll likely get Ronald Jones II back from injury and Deontay Burnett is a full go for this one. The Cougars and their quarterback Luke Falk are no push over despite them struggling in some games, however I can’t doubt a Mike Leach coached team to not compete. As scary as this game is, keep in mind, since 1990 USC is 5-1 in Friday night games. I expect this to be an absolute shootout, but USC pulls it out in a close one.
Brendan: WSU pulls of the upset
While I agree with Matthew that this game makes me very nervous, I’m also very excited to watch it. Although the Trojan secondary has big playmaking ability, they lack consistent coverage. Against an Air Raid offense like Washington State, that could be a problem. Especially if the Trojan offense struggles to get going like they did against a young Cal team last week. The offensive line has had pass protection issues thus far, and given that pressure (on top of wide out inconsistencies this season) Darnold has forced several throws. This does not bode well going up against a WSU defense that already has 15 sacks for the season (3.75 per game). Not to mention they’re on the road, against a talented team foaming at the mouth to take down SC. I hate to play the bad guy here, but I think SC falls.
Nick: USC will keep the win streak alive
This one may be filled with drama, unpredictability, and stress but USC continues to keep coming up clutch no matter what other teams throw at them. Mike Leech and his air raid offense always bring a ton of volatility and wildness to the game. The air raid can be fragile though. When it is working, it works really well and the Cougars can take a legit run at beating just about anyone in the country. When it isn’t working though that very same WSU team can and does lose to FCS teams.
The Cougars are 4-0 coming into this game and it might seem like they have got some serious momentum coming in and maybe they do. In those 4 games though The Cougs have played Nevada and Montana State for easy wins. They also comfortably handled the perpetually plagued Oregon State Beavers.
The Cougs other win this year was against a 2-2 Boise State that is a far cry from the program they were when Chris Peterson was there. In that game the mighty Coug offense put up all of 10 points on the board in the first 3 quarters of the game and required a massive and improbable 4th quarter comeback. The media may want to hype up this matchup as a showdown between two gunslingers and it may very well be but WSU QB Luke Falk was actually benched during that game because of how poorly he was playing. He seems to have turned things around a bit but this USC defense is a massively different animal than the defenses he’s struggled with. The Cougs also do not have much in the way of a run game so if the passing game can’t get it going or the Cougs’ defense struggles to keep USC out of the endzone they won’t have a rushing attack to fall back on.
WSU does have key advantages in health, momentum, environment and emotion. College football is a game largely dictated by emotion. The Cougars have been waiting for this game for a long time. For every bit of media attention USC gets Wazzou gets ignored. The chance to knock off USC and finally get a little bit of respect from the rest of the country has to be a huge motivation for the Cougs. USC on the other hand is getting healthier but the first four games have taken a toll physically with injuries mounting up and emotionally as well. Pullman is a tough place to play to begin with, USC is about as far away from home as they can get and still be in the Pac-12, the WSU crowd is a notoriously rowdy bunch. The weather will be cold (by LA standards) and it will probably be raining. Loud, cold, wet, injured, and a huge target on your back against a unique opponent will cause problems. If the Cougs are gong to pull the upset this is how they will do it.
USC has the tools to break down the fragile air raid, and their three main weapons on offense are all playing though not 100%. Darnold has been working on his issues with forcing passes, the rest of the WR have been working on not dropping those passes and Wazzou will have a hard time bottling up the USC offense the way Cal and Texas did.
This will be sloppy, it will be wild, if you are looking for an easy walk through Pullman with a 4-touchdown victory you won’t find it, but Sam and the gang are clutch and should be able to get another win here tonight.
USC 35, WSU 27
Kickoff is at 7:30pm PST on ESPN. Keep it locked here for live in-game tweeting and immediate reactions following the conclusion of the game.