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College football expert Ian Cameron breaks down this weekend's Pac-12 matchup for when USC travels to Washington State. He gives his prediction and picks for this matchup.

Washington State vs. USC Prediction: Will Trojans Be Motivated Under New Head Coach?

Washington State Cougars vs. USC Trojans

When: Saturday, September 18

Game Time: 3:30 PM ET

Where: Martin Stadium, Pullman, WA

TV Network: FOX

Washington State vs. USC Spread: USC -9

Washington State vs. USC Total: 62

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Washington State vs. USC Prediction

The USC Trojans will begin with football life after Clay Helton. He was fired as head coach of the program on Monday following an embarrassing debacle on Saturday night at home against Stanford, with USC losing 42-28 as 17 point home favorites. It was the last straw for Clay Helton, who had been on the hot seat for a long time, and now the Trojans will look to rebound on Saturday as they head to Pullman to face the Washington State Cougars in the first game as interim head coach for Donte Williams.

Stanford’s offense was non-existent in their awful performance against Kansas State to open the season. Still, they responded with a much better performance in the first start at Quarterback for Tanner McKee. He threw for 234 yards on 16-for-23 passing with 2 touchdowns and no interceptions while the ground attack got going against a very feeble USC defense which had their share of problems and got gashed through the air and on the ground outgained by 1.6 yards per play in the loss. The ability to get stops on defense was a problem for USC throughout much of last season. Saturday’s loss to Stanford was another example of a team having issues defensively.

The offense had a tough start to the game but got better late as Quarterback Kedon Slovis was solid, albeit not spectacular, and the run game was effective for USC as they ran for 185 yards at 5.6 yards per rush. I would expect a solid effort in this game from USC as they try to put a good foot forward following last week’s brutal game and provide a good first impression for the new interim head coach. 

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Washington State has not played good football this season in their first two games for head coach Nick Rolovich who did a great job at Hawaii but has yet to get this program on track. The Cougars lost outright as double-digit home favorites in their season opener against Utah State, and they were less than impressive in a win against Portland State of the FCS ranks last week in which they only outgained their opponent by 45 yards.

The good news is the offense looks to be a unit that could be very good as the season goes along with Quarterback Jayden De Laura who has completed nearly 65% of his passes with 4 touchdowns and just 1 interception in two games for Washington State. However, the defense is still a concern with his team as they struggled last year to get stops. So far this season, they are yielding 162 rushing yards per game (85th in the country) and 268.5 passing yards per game (105th in the country), as well as 430.5 total yards per game (107th in the country). Those stats were in two games against a rebuilding Utah State team with a new head coach and QB along with Portland State, not exactly elite competition nor the kind of challenge they will be up against here facing the USC Trojans.

It’s not often easy to lay points on the road with USC, but the Trojans are the preferred side for me in this game, and I may place a small wager on USC -8.5 before kickoff. I haven’t seen anything out of Washington State, yet that impresses me enough to be able to trust them to hang tough here against easily the toughest opponent they’ve faced in the early part of this season. I expect a focused and much better performance from the Trojans and the coaching change to snap this entire football team to attention for this game. The stronger opinion for me in this game is Over the total of 62 as I expect the offenses on both teams to be the superior units on the field, and the stats certainly bear that out.

Washington State vs. USC Picks

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