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2021 Game 3: USC Football vs. Washington State

Sep 17, 2021

USC Trojans (1-1, 0-1) at Washington State Cougars (1-1, 0-0)

Martin Stadium in Pullman, Washington, at 12:30 p.m. PT on FOX

Cougar to Watch: Sophomore QB Jayden de Laura

De Laura burst on to the Pac-12 scene last season with two impressive games against Oregon and Oregon State, but then plummeted back to earth at the Coliseum with a 134-yard, two-interception performance against the Trojans. But, he is coming off an outstanding effort last Saturday, albeit against Portland State, and looks ready to show USC what he can really do.

3 Keys

Pack a Poncho and a Run Game

The game time weather is expected to be wet and wild with a 90% chance of rain, so while this matchup pits the Air Raid against the Run-And-Shoot, two historically pass-heavy offenses, the ground game may win the day. USC is averaging 5.15 yards per carry through two games which is a huge improvement over 3.17 yards per carry last season. Vavae Malepeai (5.48 ypc) and Keaontay Ingram (5.20 ypc) have both been solid, so expect OC Graham Harrell to ride his horses through the slick conditions.

Turn the Heat Up

Through two games, USC has zero sacks. That's a surprising stat given the talent the Trojans have upfront. Last season, USC was one of the best teams in the nation at getting pressure without having to blitz, but DC Todd Orlando may need to do something to spark this pass rush. The Trojans sacked de Laura four times in the 2020 meeting, which tied USC's season high. They cannot afford to let this Wazzu offense get comfortable because the receivers and backs are legitimate playmakers if they do.

Interim Coach Bump

In all sports, hitting the reset button in the middle of the season usually leads to the team rallying together around the interim head coach and that's what the Trojans need to do. Donte Williams is the perfect man for the job because he brings a different type of energy than Clay Helton, and he is known for his ability to connect with his players. In poor weather conditions and on the road for the first time, the Trojans will be forced to band together and fight off the elements if they want to get this season back on track.