WR Tavares Martin Jr vs CB Iman Marshall
Iman Marshall, the former five star recruit, has gained lots of praise since his time as a Trojan. However, with that praise comes expectations. As a result, Marshall has been criticized for his subpar performance as the new #1 corner (replacing Adoree Jackson from last season). With that being said, tonight presents a chance for Marshall to truly shine and prove he is the player Trojan fans were so excited to sign. He’ll need to utilize his big play making ability tonight to try to slow down this WSU passing offense. He’ll also need to prove his lockdown coverage skills against Tavares Martin Jr, who is the top Cougars receiver this year. Martin already has 390 yards on 26 catches including six touchdowns. Knowing how physical and fast Martin is, Marshall must bring his A game if USC hopes to continue their recent dominant defensive performances.
RBs Jamal Morrow/James Williams vs LBs Cameron Smith/Uchenna Nwosu
Being that it seems generic to just say “WSU Oline vs USC Dline” we’ll highlight specific runningbacks and linebackers. Jamal Morrow is a rock solid 5’9 203 lb RB who is a hassle to bring down. With the Dline having their hands full, it seems most tackles will come from both Cameron Smith and Uchenna Nwosu. The Cougars don’t run often, but they run well. Morrow is averaging 6.9 ypc (193 yards on 28 carries) for a touchdown. James Williams is a weapon out of the backfield, with 266 yards on 37 catches and three touchdowns. Look for Morrow and Williams to split the workload for majority of the night. Smith and Nwosu must stuff Morrow at the line to make WSU completely one dimensional, and focus on locking down Williams as a receiver specifically on third down and red zone play.
DE Hercules Mata’afa vs LT Committee
Word came out today that reliable starting LT Toa Lobendahn will not start tonight, as he didn’t even make the trip to Pullman. While it still isn’t announced who will start in his place, it’s presumed players Austin Jackson and Andrew Voorhies will help step in to fill his role. For whichever player gets majority of the snaps, their task won’t be easy. WSU defensive end Hercules Mata’afa is one of the best ends in not only the PAC-12, but the nation. For those unaware of him, it’s certain you’ll hear his name called multiple times tonight. USC Oline has focused a significant amount of their scheming around him, and with the loss of a talented LT, it just got a lot harder. Knowing this, expect the Cougars to stick Mata’afa on the left side of the line as much as they can, forcing the young reserves to step up. Whether they can hold their own enough to give Sam Darnold time, will be (in my opinion) the biggest key for this SC offense.
Look for these three key matchups later tonight. Should they all go the Trojans way, USC has a great chance of still being undefeated at the end of the night.