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USC Trojans (-8, 62.5) at Washington State Cougars
It has been an interesting week for USC. Preparing for Washington State is a lot different than it used to be with the Air Raid offense of Mike Leach. Now the Trojans are preparing for more of a run-and-shoot style preferred by former Hawaii head coach Nick Rolovich.
All of that game-planning has to be done with a new head coach. To top it off, USC has to travel to Pullman, which has historically not been the easiest place to play.
The Trojans had no issues with the Cougars last season in a 38-13 victory on Dec. 6. The final score was a bit misleading, as USC outgained Wazzu by just 24 yards, but the Trojans were +3 in turnover margin and Kedon Slovis had five touchdown passes.
This is a really tough handicap because of the question marks off the field for USC. How focused has the team been in preparation for this game? The players have known that Clay Helton had third-degree burns on his backside from the hot seat, but firing him two games into the season had to be a shock.
USC played well and covered in the Week 1 win over San Jose State as a 14-point favorite, but looked like a completely different team in the humiliating loss to Stanford. That game was worse than the 42-28 final score looked, as the Trojans had two long touchdown drives in the fourth quarter after the game was decided. USC was favored by as many as 18 points and never even had the lead.
Washington State’s upset loss to Utah State in Week 1 looks a little better now given how the Aggies have been playing, but the Cougars still gave up 420 yards to Portland State in last week’s 44-24 win.
It wouldn’t be a big surprise to see some money come in on the under in advance of the Trojans-Cougars matchup. The two quarterbacks, Slovis and Wazzu's Jayden de Laura, have solid stat lines to this point, but the weather forecast in Pullman calls for some rain and wind in the afternoon. The two teams have also combined for just 16 plays of 20 or more yards and only one play of 40 or more yards through four combined games.
USC could also wind up with a pretty basic game-plan here. With the coaching staff upheaval, complicating matters from a preparation standpoint might not be the best idea.
It's harder to pick the spread in this game with the uncertainty surrounding USC and Jekyll-and-Hyde performances from Washington State in its first two games. The total looks like the better bet with the weather factors and lack of explosive offenses.
Pick: USC/Washington State Under 62.5
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.