2020 Game 4: USC vs. Washington State
Washington State Cougars (1-1) at No. 20 USC Trojans (3-0)
Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum at 4:30 p.m. PT on FS1
Cougar to Watch: Freshman QB Jayden de Laura
Despite being a remote outpost in the Northwest, Washington State has a long history of turning out great quarterbacks. Most notably, the Cougars had Drew Bledsoe and Ryan Leaf in the 90s, but the last two decades, they always seem to have a polished passer. Jayden de Laura was a three-star recruit, who barely ranked in the Top 500 players in the country, but he has hit the ground running (and throwing) in Pullman. The true freshman is coming off an impressive performance against Oregon in which he passed for 321 yards and 2 TDs without an INT.
Expect the Unexpected
It's the motto of 2020 and the preparation plan for every week this season. While we don't know who will be missing from the Trojans' lineup or who has been practicing away from the full team this week, Clay Helton does, so he will be ready with a strategy to potentially give some backups or younger players an opportunity. If multiple starters are missing, USC's depth will be tested as there are injury concerns as well, so the Trojans will need an unlikely hero or two to stay undefeated.
USC boasts the No. 1 passing offense in the Pac-12 and No. 14 in the nation, a stat which may come as a surprise to the many who have expressed concern about Kedon Slovis this season. The sophomore quarterback was his harshest critic after the Utah game, saying, "I don't think I played very well as a whole. We left a lot of points on the board and that's mostly because of my play and not being disciplined enough." The Trojans issue has been turning yards into points, and one solution could be avoiding the red zone altogether. Washington State, which ranks 11th in the Pac-12 in pass defense, provides an opportunity to go vertical and make some big plays that end in touchdowns.
Remember the Feeling
USC's unscheduled bye week came at just the wrong time as the Trojans played their best game of the season in Salt Lake City and had a ton of momentum, especially on defense. They shut the Utes out in the second half by combining a terrorizing pass rush with blanket coverage which resulted in five takeaways, the program's most in a game since 2017. The Cougars will be a test with de Laura at QB and the top two receivers in the Pac-12 in terms of yards per game, but USC has the talent on defense to dominate any Pac-12 offense if the Trojans are as locked in on their assignments as they were in Utah.