In what is the best Friday night game thus far this season, the USC Trojans and Washington State Cougars do battle in Pullman. USC has been up and down, I don’t know if anyone can establish if they’re for real or pretenders. The only game USC has looked good in was against Stanford. Western Michigan? No. Cal? Nope. They had their problems in both of those matchups, including Heisman hopeful Sam Darnold, who hasn’t turned any heads, yet. He did look sharp against Stanford, but one good outing isn’t going to cut it in a Heisman race. He also did throw 2 interceptions against Stanford, which will add a blemish to his resume.
The Trojans pulled out a 30-20 win against Cal. The Golden Bears’ defense make Darnold work. He made several bad reads on balls that should have gone the other way. He ultimately threw 1 interception, but it should have been more. Do that in the NFL and it would have ended in 3 interceptions. Over the first month of the season, the nod has to go to Josh Rosen in the quarterback comparison. It’s still early, though, but Darnold reminded me more of Christian Hackenberg this past Saturday than a 1st overall selection in the draft.
Cal’s defense is not as bad as people think now. They’ve improved considerably, but a Heisman candidate must find a way to play well against decent defenses. Washington State is another team who people assume have a horrid defense. At one point, they did have one of the worst defenses in college football, but not anymore.
If you don’t keep up on what’s happening around college football years-to-year, an uninformed handicapper can get buried. What was the norm the year before can change quickly. Are they an elite defense? No but they aren’t paper-thin and can get after the quarterback. If you don’t know who Hercules Mata’afa is you should get to know him. Let’s get straight to our pick, head below for our USC vs. Washington State pick.
USC Trojans vs. Washington State Cougars Betting Odds:
vs. Washington State +4(-105)
Betting odds provided by Bovada.lv
USC vs. Washington State Pick:
Darnold must have a coming out party in this game on the road, in a hostile environment. His Heisman dreams are going to slip away if he goes through an entire month without putting together a highlight reel type of performance. Don’t get me wrong, he was good against Stanford, but it wasn’t a Heisman worthy performance. Thus far in 2017, Darnold has passed for 9 touchdowns and 7 interceptions with a 67.1 completion percentage. In other words, he has to pick it up. He should have better numbers with that offensive line he’s behind. USC has to block Hercules Mata’afa at all costs.
Hercules is a load on the defensive line. I have seen him completely take games over. In three games, he has 14 tackles and 4.5 sacks. He does a tremendous job at plugging up running lanes using his athleticism. It’s well documented how good the USC offensive line is, so I think this is going to be one matchup to watch. Another interesting matchup will be the quarterbacks, Darnold vs Luke Falk.
Falk is another NFL prospect who isn’t getting nearly as much hype. Scouts love his size. Any quarterback with some height and size is going to get some looks. His issue is going to be converting from an air-raid quarterback to a pro-style player. There are many who couldn’t make the jump to the NFL. Falk has been putting up the kind of numbers that will get looks from professionals, though. He has thrown for 14 touchdowns and just 1 interception, with a whopping 76.9 completion percentage.
With all of the accolades over their Mike Leach offense, their defense has been playing good. They’re 12th in the nation, allowing 262 yards per game and 18.5 points per game. This shouldn’t be a game Darnold and USC expects to be a walk in the park, like I said, they are not the same defense as before. Pullman is going to be rocking for this matchup. USC survived against Texas, and I could see them having to fight and claw for everything against the Cougars. I would take the points with Washington State at home.