GAME NOTES: The 20th-ranked USC Trojans and Washington State Cougars kick off their respective Pac-10 campaigns this weekend when they meet at Martin Stadium in Pullman.
Due to NCAA penalties, the Trojans are not only banned from postseason play, but from challenging for a Pac-10 title as well. That is obviously a big blow for a program that has dominated the Pac-10 over the years. Still, new head coach Lane Kiffin needs to keep this program afloat during the ban and he will surely have the Trojans ready.
USC enters the contest a perfect 3-0 on the season, although it hasn't dominated in its usual fashion. Last weekend, the Trojans tallied a 32-21 victory at Minnesota in their first visit to the Twin Cities in 30 years.
"It was good to get the win today," said Kiffin, who trying to become the first USC coach since Jess Hill in 1951 to start his Trojan career with four straight victories. "Were excited to be 3-0, but obviously we have a long way to go and a lot of stuff to work on."
On the flip side, the Cougars played well last weekend, but faltered in the second half of a 35-21 loss at SMU.
"This was the first time we had (a chance to win a game)," head coach Paul Wulff told the Spokesman-Review. "Our next step is to come out and continue to be in football games for four quarters."
It marked the program's 11th straight loss against FBS members dating back to a win over SMU last year. To make matters worse, WSU now heads into a tough Pac-10 schedule after going winless against league foes last season.
As for the head-to-head series, USC holds a commanding 57-8-4 advantage over WSU and the Trojans have won seven straight meetings, including a 27-6 decision last year.
The Trojans used big plays to get past Minnesota last weekend, with Matt Barkley throwing a 53-yard TD pass to Ronald Johnson, Robert Woods returning a kickoff 97 yards for a score and Allen Bradford scampering 56 yards to paydirt.
Bradford finished the game with 131 yards on 12 carries for USC, which went for 216 yards on the ground as a team. The Trojans are averaging close to 200 rushing ypg for the season, using a variety of backs to get the job done.
Barkley also did a good job under center, throwing for 192 yards and two TDs on 17-of-26 pass attempts. The sophomore, however, was also picked twice after a clean sheet in the first two games.
"I'm disappointed with the turnovers on offense, especially the interceptions," stated Kiffin. "Matt (Barkley) had gone through two games without any interceptions. To have two in one game, that would get us beat down the road playing tougher competition."
Despite the picks, Barkley has been effective this season by completing 65.5 percent of his tosses for nine TDs, with four of them going to Johnson.
Defensively, the Trojans controlled the game last weekend and limited Minnesota to just 307 total yards. A nice effort considering USC is allowing over 400 total ypg thus far, a bit surprising for a team loaded with so much talent. The unit was especially tough on Minnesota's ground game, surrendering just 83 yards on 37 attempts.
"We played well on defense for most of the game there until the last drive with the back-ups," stated Kiffin.
USC also forced three turnovers after recording only one takeaway in the first two games. Jurrell Case guided the defense with nine stops, giving him 23 for the year. He also has two sacks and 3.5 TFLs for the season, tying him for the team-lead in both departments.
The Cougars kept up until after the intermission, when SMU scored 21-unaswered points for the 35-21 victory. WSU, which enter the break knotted at 14-14, didn't score after the break until the final two minutes of the contest. QB
Jeff Tuel did a nice job moving the offense despite being sacked four times, as he completed 18-of-33 tosses for 284 yards and two TDs. It was an encouraging effort from Tuel, who had passed for just three TDs through the first two games.
Marquess Wilson was clearly his top target against SMU, pulling in six balls for 134 yards and a TD. His 281 receiving yards on the season are nearly triple the next closest player on the roster.
WSU however, simply can't get its ground attack going, averaging only 96.7 ypg and a mere 2.8 yards per carry.
The Cougars don't have the talent or speed on defense to slow down opposing clubs and they are currently yielding 457.0 total ypg. The defense is surrendering 5.4 yards per carry and allowing opponents to complete over 65 percent of their pass attempts.
Last weekend, WSU gave up 420 total yards to SMU, which threw for 280 yards and four scores. The Cougars have now allowed nine passing TDs in just three games.
DE Kevin Kooyman though, was a bright spot in the loss to SMU, as he recorded two sacks and forced a pair of fumbles. He gave the Cougars a nice rush off the edge and the team hopes he can continue that in coming weeks.
This is a mismatch all-around and the Trojans should have little trouble dominating on both sides for the victory this weekend.