Can USC turn things around this Friday night against Washington State?
The biggest question regarding USC is making the proper adjustments to get something going against a Washington Cougars team that hasn’t been tested quite yet. The USC offense has reached historic lows the last two weeks against Texas and Stanford. The biggest issue has been on the offensive line. The Trojans struggled to generate a push for the running backs last week as well as take pressure off of freshman quarterback JT Daniels. This week will show if any adjustments were made to help jump start a struggling offense.
The defense will see a heavy amount of pass come their way. USC defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast will have to find a way to generate some type of pressure on Cougars quarterback Gardner Minshew II, at least without senior linebacker Porter Gustin. After receiving a targeting penalty early in the third quarter vs. Texas, Gustin will be forced to miss the first half of Friday night’s game. The secondary will also look to recover from last week after their less than stellar performance against the Longhorns. This week they will match up against a Washington State offense that carries five wide receivers with over 100 yards catching and average no less than 12 yards a reception.
We are going to see what USC team shows up this Friday. Last season, Washington State handed USC their only loss in conference, a loss that kept the Trojans out of the College Football Playoff. The biggest question will be on the USC offensive coaching staff. Did they make the adjustments to jump start offense and play to their full ability? I see the Trojans run game getting a jolt of life thanks to Stephen Carr and the offensive line playing an improved game. This will be pretty high scoring with USC taking the victory.
USC-45 Washington State- 28
Can USC win a game that it’s supposed to win?
Honestly, saying that USC is supposed to win this game is a little bit of an overstatement. Going into the game, USC is favored by 4.5. As home teams are usually given a three point advantage, odds-makers probably see USC’s disastrous performances at Stanford and Texas as representative of this USC team. From an outsider’s view, I can see where the odds-makers are coming from.
Still, I think USC can bounce back and play at their potential. Clay Helton, Tee Martin, and Clancy Pendergast each have adjustments to make, but ultimately college teams do not go for prolonged stretches without sheer talent taking over.
Against the Cougars, I expect the defense to continue doing what it’s been doing, which is playing great in one series, and forgetting what’s going on in the next. So far, USC has employed something of a break-don’t-bend defense. They’ve played great in stretches, and have forced opponents into difficult third down positions. Problem is, a fake punt here and a missed safety call there has inflated the scores in each game. The defense has been streaky throughout the first three weeks, but it definitely has its moments as well.
I expect this to continue against Washington State. Mike Leach’s air raid offense will push this talented Trojan defense, but they’ll make enough stops to allow JT Daniels to win this game on the final drive.
USC takes it. 35-27
Can USC commit to a running game?
Facing a Washington State team that loves to air it out, establishing a consistent running game that helps the Trojans control the time of possession will be vital for the team on Friday night.
Against Stanford and against Texas, the Trojans seemed to have a running game going but it didn’t last long in either. While USC did outcarry the Cardinal 37 to 29, offensive coordinator Tee Martin appeared to have abandoned the run whenever the Trojans were deep into Stanford territory. Last week against Texas, USC only rushed the ball a total of 16 times. Considering the large deficit that the Trojans fell into, there’s no surprise there.
With that said though, USC needs to establish a rushing attack early in order to keep the ball out of Cougar senior quarterback Gardner Minshew’s hands. Washington State coach Mike Leach has been known throughout his career for his savvy passing attacks and if USC wants to try and get in a shootout against Leach & Co., we may see a similar result to the last couple of weeks.
The Cougars’ defense do present a challenge with their pass rush. In just three games, they’ve recorded 10 sacks, which is the 10th most in FBS, per the OC Register’s Joey Kauffman.
In order to get around that and keep the pressure of freshman quarterback JT Daniels, the best recipe for Martin is to let running backs Stephen Carr and Aca’Cedric Ware carry the load with the run game. If the Trojans do that, they can cruise to a double-digit victory.
Prediction: USC 24, Washington State 10
Will the Trojans become the team that everyone predicted them to be?
The USC Trojans started their 2016 campaign with a record of 1-3. With all hope lost, former quarterback Sam Darnold took charge and never looked back. Leading the team to nine consecutive wins, and their first Rose Bowl victory since the 2008 season. Now, with a lowly record of 1-2, the Trojans look to repeat that same success of the 2016 season. Instead of Darnold however, the Trojans look to rely on true freshman JT Daniels.
After a dominating first game of the season against UNLV, Daniels has not been what people have hoped to see. Even after showing improvement in last week’s loss against the Texas Longhorns, the rest of the team seemed to have taken a step back. The defense gave up three touchdowns, the offense was held to a total of negative five rushing yards, and the special teams allowed a blocked kick which resulted in a Longhorns touchdown. The Trojans have now lost two consecutive games, the most they have lost in a row since that 2016 season.
This week will not get any easier, as the Trojans will face off against the much improved 3-0 Cougars from Washington State. The Cougars this season have been consistent on both sides of the ball. As shown by their offense which scored 59 points and their defense which forced four turnovers in their rout against Eastern Washington University last week. Clay Helton knows he has his hands full, as the Cougars gave the Trojans their first loss of the season last season on a rainy night in Pullman.
If Daniels and the Trojans wish to even their record at 2-2 this week, they will have to play with much more commodity and focus. I believe that after their best week of practice this season, all the players will come out ready to prove a point. Daniels will come out firing for over 300 yards and three touchdown passes, while the Trojans defense will limit the Cougars to one touchdown. The Trojans will show why they have the second longest home winning streak in the nation.
The Trojans beat the Cougars, 24-10.
Will USC break their two game losing streak and keep their home win streak alive? I certainly hope so. Right now Clay Helton and the Trojans are 16-0 at home during his tenure, and have an opportunity to hand an undefeated Washington State their first loss of the season.
Some of my worries now include JT Daniels, who has had a tendency to throw into double coverage the past few games. While he has put up impressive yardage stats, throwing for 322 yards against Texas, he has only thrown for one touchdown in three outings.
While Amon-Ra St. Brown is Daniels’ favorite and most reliable target, I would like to see him open it up down the field to both Michael Pittman Jr. and Tyler Vaughns. With the Trojans back in familiar Coliseum territory, I predict this will finally be the full fledged breakout game for USC on all cylinders.
Daniels will throw for 300 yards and three touchdowns, two being caught by his former high school teammate St. Brown. On the ground game, I expect senior leader Aca’Cedric Ware to come out and dominate, rushing for 100 yards and two touchdowns, to make up for a quiet performance against Texas.
The USC pass defense has been solid so far, and they will need to continue to play well to keep WSU quarterback Gardner Minshew under wraps. Minshew has already thrown for 1,203 yards and eight touchdowns in just three games. Granted, USC will be the toughest defense and overall opponent the Cougars have faced, but Minshew is no one the Trojan secondary should overlook or underestimate.
After two crushing losses, I predict the USC Trojans will finally hit their stride and dominate the short week.
USC 35 WSU 21
Will the USC offensive line step up?
The key factor in determining the outcome of this game is how the USC offensive line fares against the strong Washington State front seven, a unit that already has ten sacks this season, which is 10th in the FBS. The Trojan offensive line has already allowed nine, and will need to do a better job of protecting its freshman quarterback JT Daniels.
Speaking of Daniels, he needs to step up as well. He does not look like the same player that he was at Mater Dei, getting nervous in the pocket and making questionable decisions with the ball. Daniels is in dire need of a confidence boost, but I have a good feeling that he will get that from this game.
The Trojan defense will have a tall task in trying to defend Cougar quarterback Gardner Minshew after giving up two passing touchdowns to Longhorn quarterback Sam Ehlinger last week. Minshew is arguably the more talented quarterback of the two, and it does not hurt that Cougars’ head coach Mike Leach, passing game aficionado, will be calling the plays into Minshew’s headset.
Maybe I’m just being too optimistic, but the Trojans have had enough of this losing and really cannot afford to take another loss to avoid the dreaded losing culture from coming into the locker room. They bounce back in a close and high-scoring game.
USC 37 Washington State 33
The past two weeks aren’t blips in the USC schedule—this team will continue to under perform
Much like all of you Trojan faithful, I have been frustrated and heartbroken at the ineptitude of this team. From an imploded offensive line who can’t push the pile to a defense who can’t make tackles— this poorly coached unit has been downright awful.
I really wish I could have a shred of optimism with this team, but there isn’t even a glimmer of hope with the Trojans that has showed me they can win this game. JT Daniels has had a bad string of games as he’s completed on 56 percent of his passes while throwing three interceptions and zero touchdowns in USC’s back-to-back losses.
The running game last week against Texas was putrid, technically running for a total of -5 yards thanks to a Daniels’ -26 yards (yeah…I know), the three running backs combined for 24 yards on 12 carries. A lot of the hype and preseason adoration this team received was due to the plat of the defense last season and the influx of freshman this season.
However, most of the players who made the defense great are in the NFL and the two guys who made the offense function were Sam Darnold and Ronald Jones II. These playmakers are no longer in cardinal and gold but they Air Raid offense is alive and well for the Cougars as they rank 25th in total offense and points scored.
The Cougars gave an injury-riddled Trojan team all they could handle last season, and I just can’t foresee a scenario where USC scores enough points to keep up WSU.
The Trojans take their first home loss in over a year as they’re overwhelmed 49-17.
If there is anything to take away from the first three games of the season, it is that Week 4 will not be a cake walk. Regardless of who wins, USC and Washington State are both going to have to earn this win. Both teams find themselves in unfamiliar territory record wise, with USC at 1-2 and Washington State at 3-0. USC will be the toughest team the Cougars have faced to this point, but the same was said about Texas this time last week.
Starting with the offense, Daniels needs to spread the ball around more in order to open up his options. While it is great to see him connect with his high school teammate in St. Brown, the touchdown passes will likely start to come when the other receivers start making big plays as well. The offensive line needs to be better, and a big run or two won’t hurt. The Coliseum could use some energy tomorrow night.
Through three games, Washington’s quarterback Gardner Minshew has put up some electrifying numbers, so the defense needs to be ready to expect some big play attempts downfield. They will be without Porter Gustin for the first half, so it is crucial that every player is ready to step up. Ultimatley, USC needs to win this one, or else Clay Helton’s job security is really going to be brought into question come Monday morning.
I believe USC will squeeze this one out by a field goal.
USC 27 WSU 24