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USC

vs.

Washington State

College Football

Free Pick

9/29/17

This is the game some people were looking to for USC’s first challenge and possible loss of the season. With both teams coming in undefeated, a lot will be on the line in terms of the Pac-12 as well as the College Football Playoff. On the road, the Trojans opened as -4 point favorites over Washington State as seen at 5Dimes Sportsbook.

A lot of eyes will be on this game Friday night with two undefeated teams playing under the lights. USC has been far from reliable in the early going, barely getting past three of their opponents, while running through Stanford. Washington State has been slightly better, yet has faced a much easier schedule and didn’t exactly blow out Boise State (47-44), its toughest non-conference opponent.

But this is probably the game that the Cougars have had circled since the beginning of the season, going against the Heisman favorite Sam Darnold. WSU’s defense was supposed to be better, but again, allowed 44 points to its best opponent faced. Stopping USC doesn’t mean only Darnold, as the quarterback hasn't had a great start to the season. Darnold, who many expect to be the top pick in the NFL Draft, has just nine touchdowns compared to seven picks. He threw nine interceptions all of last season for comparison. Instead, the Trojans have been led by a dominant ground game between Ronald Jones II (322 yards) and Stephen Carr (298 yards).

The Cougars haven’t faced an offense like this in 2017, and against the best teams last year, this defense struggled. That showed up in their final two games of the conference season, giving up 38 points to Colorado and 45 to Washington. There’s a decent chance USC has that kind of success here and goes for around 40 points.

The question to covering and winning this game will be what USC’s defense looks like. The Trojans haven’t exactly played a good offense yet and they haven’t dominated any of them. Cal is a work in progress and without the four interceptions last week, USC could’ve been in real trouble as they gave up 300 passing yards and 100 more on the ground.

This will be a good test for this Trojans defense as they haven’t seen an offense like Wazzu’s. So far, Luke Falk has played as expected, throwing for 14 touchdowns and only one INT on 76.9% completion. While he struggled against Boise State, he’s been flawless in the other three wins. An important thing for the Cougars may be to get the ground game going between Jamal Morrow and James Williams. While this offense is Air Raid, it’s important to be able to find running room and keep the clock moving to keep USC’s offense off the field. It’s still unknown what USC’s defense can do, as it’s been gashed on the ground or through the air in each game, but never in both aspects.

The Cougars will be amped up for this one and are in a great spot for an upset. And yet, the last time they were in this spot, Washington ran all over them in the 2016 regular season finale. Then again, the Trojans have been hard to trust and will be a hard road favorite to back. Washington State +3.5

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