USC struggled against a bad Stanford team last week, and USC decided to fire coach Clay Helton after the loss. On the other hand, the defense has work to do. The offense struggled but was efficient. They could not get any pressure on sophomore quarterback Tanner McKee. Stanford running back Nathaniel Peat had six carries for 115 yards and a touchdown, too. Question marks surround USC entering Week 3.
Washington State is a tough team to read this year. They started 1-1 with a loss to Utah State but followed the loss with a bounce-back win against Portland State. Their defense blew a late lead against Utah State to choke away the win. On offense, quarterback Jayden DeLaura is still developing. Their offense won’t be as explosive under Nick Rolovich as it was under Mike Leach. That said, they’ll start producing solid numbers once they get going.
Odds courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook
- Opening Lines: USC -8.5, Total 63
- Last Game: December 6, 2021, USC 38-13
- Winning Streak: USC (2)
USC is a good offensive team, and they won’t struggle to score points. They recorded 28 last week in their loss to Stanford. Kedon Slovis has weapons around him and the arm to distribute the ball. The last two times USC faced Washington State, they scored 38 and 39 points. Unless the Cougars improve significantly on defense, USC will put up points this week. USC might not score above 30 with interim head coach Donte Williams at the helm, but they will find the end zone a few times.
That said, USC has work to do defensively. They looked good against San Jose State in Week 1, but they gave up 42 points to Stanford last week. For some perspective, Stanford still doesn’t have a coherent offensive identity. USC’s Donte Williams will look to patch up the holes in Week 3. USC has struggled to pressure the quarterback, but that shouldn’t be a problem with the talent on their roster. USC has to turn up the pressure against Washington State’s offense if they want to fare better than last week.
On the other side of the ball, Washington State has looked like a much different team since losing Garnder Minshew and Mike Leach. They went just 1-3 last year. Their defense surrendered 38.5 points per game against Pac-12 teams, and they haven’t played much better this season. Both of their opponents have scored 23-plus points despite having mediocre offenses. This defense will struggle against USC. The Cougars will have to rely on their offense to stay in the game.
Offensively, Washington State has been decent. However, they haven’t played the caliber of talent that USC has faced — the Trojans’ defense just looked out of it last week. Quarterback Jayden DeLaura is still developing, but he made strides against Portland State last week. This offense will be pretty balanced between the run and pass, which is different from the air raid we used to see with Mike Leach. The result of this game depends on which USC defense Washington State faces.
This game is a tough one to read. USC’s decision to get rid of Helton makes it very difficult to know what will happen. History tells us that the Trojans will cover the spread since the Cougars are 0-5 against the spread in their last five games.
That said, I would minimize my exposure to this game. Interim head coaches can make things difficult; sometimes, players play harder to keep their coach. Donte Williams connects well with players, so I suspect the Trojans will play hard for him, but he is also a defensive-minded coach. As their former defensive passing game coordinator, Williams should coach a smart defensive game plan, allowing the Trojans to cover as 8.5-point favorites.
Pick: USC -8.5 (-110)
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