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Free Football Pick: Washington State vs. USC

by | Sep 19, 2018 | cfb

Washington State Cougars (3-0 SU, 3-0 ATS) at USC Trojans (1-2 SU, 1-2 ATS)
College Football Week 5
When: Friday, September 21, 10:30PM EST
Where: Coliseum, Los Angeles, CA
TV: ESPN
By: Dave Wilson, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com

Spread: WSU +4.5/USC -4.5
Total: 53

The Washington State Cougars are off to a 3-0 start after downing the Eastern Washington Eagles last Saturday 59-24. The Cougs are currently winning games by an average of 29 points per contest. This week the Cougars fly to beautiful Southern California to take on arguably, their toughest opponent of the early season—the USC Trojans. Let’s be honest, WSU hasn’t been tested yet and this week they open conference play at a very hungry yet struggling USC. The Trojans lost on the road to the Texas Longhorns 37-14 this past weekend and it was the second loss this season by multiple TDs. In fact, USC has dropped back to back games by double digits for the first time in 18 years—and it doesn’t get easier as they face an explosive Cougar Air-Raid offense.

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Washington State: Explosive. Washington State has a knack for acquiring just the right QB for their system year after year whether it is Luke Falk in the past, or this year in senior transfer from East Carolina Garner Minshew II. Minshew has stepped right in and runs the WSU air-raid offense as if he’s been doing it for years. Granted WSU has played less caliber teams up to now but they have been beating these teams by a lot and that is what matters as they head to So-Cal this weekend for a Friday night showdown with the Trojans. The Cougs also have established a decent running game under the legs of junior RB James Williams and freshman RB Max Borghi. Coupled with multiple WR targets led by Tay Martin, Kyle Sweet, and Travell Harris, the Cougs can light up the scoreboard in a hurry. Travell Harris might be the fastest player on either team this weekend—he can cook! Defensively, The Cougs have played better than expected and have put pressure on QBs thus far. They have given up some big plays in the secondary which may be something the Trojans try to expose this weekend.

USC: Stagnant. USC has struggled so far this season and are desperately in need of a win at home. That aside, the Trojans are not the Trojans of old—the storied program of yesteryear, when guys like Reggie Bush, Marcus Allen, Sam Darnold even, cemented the former powerhouse. This season looks to be a rough go as USC starts a freshman QB in JT Daniels who has just one passing TD on the season and has yet to really get the offense going for the Trojans. Daniels beat out three other QBs to earn his starting job but USC is inconsistent on offense and if they continue to struggle the Trojans may indeed call on another QB to spark some much-needed offense. Another notable concern may be the Trojan’s offensive line who have been banged up since the opener versus UNLV. Three starters have been subbed in and out due a variety of issues–knee tendinitis (Austin Jackson), pectoral strain (Toa Lobendahn), and hip soreness (Chuma Edoga). USC may have more depth on the O-line then last year but lack of game reps will be crucial.

The Keys to this Matchup: Rookie QB vs. Veteran QB. Plain and simple, USC’s Daniels may be a Gatorade Player of the Year with all kinds of high school accolades but the bottom line–he is a freshman playing at a much higher level with defenses who can read a guy like a book and pressure QBs out of the pocket on a regular basis—especially if USC’s O-line is suspect. Washington State’s QB, Garner Minshew II, already has established himself as the No. 3 passer in the country to date with over 1200 yards passing. The Cougs are ranked 24th in total offense while USC is ranked 78th. The Cougars have won two of the last three matchups against USC and are 3-2 versus the spread over the previous five meetings. Last year the Cougs won 30-27 in Pullman, Washington—this year should be another classic but we like the underdog Cougars to run away with the win and the points.

Wilson’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: The Cougars +4.5 on the road. Luck to ya.

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