Washington State vs. USC Odds, Picks: Put Trust in Cameron Ward & Cougars

Washington State vs. USC Odds, Picks: Put Trust in Cameron Ward & Cougars article feature image

Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images. Pictured: Cameron Ward (Washington State)

  • Undefeated USC hosts Cameron Ward and Washington State in a Pac-12 Showdown at the Coliseum.
  • The Trojans' offense has been elite this season, but the Cougars haven't been bad themselves.
  • Can the Cougars keep it close? Keg tells you why they will.

Washington State vs. USC Odds

Saturday, Oct. 8
7:30 p.m. ET
Washington State Odds
-110o / -110u
USC Odds
-110o / -110u
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute college football odds here.

The USC Trojans will look to match their best start since 2006 when they welcome the Washington State Cougars to the Coliseum Saturday night.

Lincoln Riley remains undefeated since arriving at USC, currently 5-0 on the season and 2-0 in the Pac-12.

The Cougars, meanwhile, would find themselves in a similar position if it were not for a fourth-quarter collapse against Oregon. The Cougars are currently 4-1 on the season and 1-1 in the Pac-12.

Saturday's matchup will be the final time Wazzu plays USC as a conference opponent in the Coliseum, and likely the last time these teams meet, barring a non-conference matchup or postseason play in the future.

Southern Cal is set to depart the Pac-12 in 2024 and is not scheduled to face the Cougs in 2023.

And with their history, I can't imagine Washington State is sad to see the Trojans go. USC leads the all-time series 61-10-4. The Trojans are also 40-6-2 against the Cougars in Los Angeles. The Cougars' last win in this series came in Pullman in 2017, when they ended the Trojans' best start in seven years.

Can they play spoiler one last time, as Riley and Caleb Williams look to lead the Trojans to their first 6-0 start in 16 years?

Washington State Cougars

The Cougars have played four of five games at home this season. However, that singular road game came in a similar situation, as the Cougars went into Camp Randall as 17-point dogs against Wisconsin and left with a 17-14 win.

Cameron Ward, one of my favorite quarterbacks to watch in college football this year, is the engine of this Wazzu offense. Ward seems to have hit his stride of late, totaling 718 yards in his last two games.

The Cougars' offense ranks 87th in total yards per contest with 378.8.

The Wazzu signal-caller edges out USC's Williams in passing yards per game, posting 289 to Williams' 280.4. The Cougars also come in at 73rd in scoring offense, posting 29.6 points per outing.

Despite the impressive offense, there is one glaring issue that can't be overlooked, specifically against the Trojans: Washington State is tied for 116th in the nation in turnovers lost while Ward has thrown seven interceptions on the season.

The good news for the Cougars — should they play it safe and avoid adding to the Trojans' astronomical turnover margin — is they match up well with the Trojans' defense in the run game.

USC has allowed nine rushes for more than 20 yards this year, ranking 115th in Rush Play Explosiveness Allowed and 102nd in Rush Play Success Rate Allowed.

If Ward struggles, look for the Cougars to turn to running back Nakia Watson. Watson is averaging five yards per carry on the season and 3.4 yards after contact. Washington State is 11th in Rush Play Explosiveness and 51st in Rush Play Success Rate.

On defense, the Cougars lead the conference and are third in the nation with 44 tackles for loss. They also rank second in the Pac-12 and seventh nationally with 17 sacks on the season.

Washington State has stopped teams when it has mattered most, allowing just a 31.9% conversion rate on third downs and holding teams to 18.2 points per game (25th nationally).

Unfortunately, the Cougars' weak point has been defending the pass, allowing a 16th-worst 275.4 passing yards per game. This isn't ideal against the Trojans, who come in at 22nd, averaging 296.6 pass yards per contest.

USC Trojans

Riley doesn't seem to have missed a beat in his move West — his team is currently ranked among the top 25 in plays per game, yards per play, touchdowns, yards per game and points per game.

They may be undefeated, but the Trojans are not perfect. Yes, they're a high-powered offense with an elite quarterback and a turnover margin five possessions better than the closest team, but there are some underlying issues for this Southern Cal team.

The health on the offensive line is a concern this week. Tackle Bobby Haskins is dealing with shoulder issues, right guard Justin Dedich missed last week's game with an injury and left tackle Courtland Ford missed time against both Fresno State and Oregon State.

On defense, turnover regression has to come at some point. In their game last week, the Trojans did not force a turnover until the third quarter, the longest the defense has gone without one this season.

However, their strength in the trenches is much less likely to experience similar regression anytime soon. USC ranks seventh in the country with 33 tackles for loss and is also tied for fifth with 19 sacks on the season.

Additionally, penalties and special teams have been a nightmare for Southern Cal. USC ranks 75th in the nation with 6.6 penalties per game and 95th in penalty yards per game, costing themselves 65 yards per contest on average.

Wazzu is 24th, committing just five penalties per game, and among the top-15 teams in the nation in yardage, giving up just 38 penalty yards per game.

When it comes to special teams, I can't make it past the second quarter without the obvious reminder that Riley doesn't think a dedicated special teams coordinator is a necessity or requirement for success.

The Trojans are allowing 22.6 yards per kick return while averaging just 13.7 yards per kick return themselves, both of which rank outside the top 100.

Washington State vs. USC Matchup Analysis

Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how Washington State and USC match up statistically:

Washington State Offense vs. USC Defense
Rush Success84102
Line Yards5586
Pass Success5693
Pass Blocking**8424
Finishing Drives2644
** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)

USC Offense vs. Washington State Defense
Rush Success1032
Line Yards253
Pass Success2124
Pass Blocking**2876
Finishing Drives417
** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)

Pace of Play / Other
PFF Tackling3589
PFF Coverage2139
SP+ Special Teams46120
Seconds per Play25.1 (32)27.2 (82)
Rush Rate39.6% (128)50.3% (88)
Data via CollegeFootballData.com (CFBD), FootballOutsiders, SP+, Pro Football Focus and SportSource Analytics.

Washington State vs. USC Betting Pick

USC could very well find itself looking ahead to next week for the matchup with Utah. Washington State has already proven its ability to go on the road this season and perform as double-digit underdogs.

Speaking of double-digit spreads, after failing to cover as a 24.5-point favorite against Arizona State last week, Riley moved to 11-20 as a double-digit favorite in conference games. Only Iowa's Kirk Ferentz has been worse over the previous 20 years.

Washington State has been dominated nearly the entire length of the all-time series between these two teams, but it's not how you start — it's how you finish.

Back the Cougars at +13 with value down to +10.

Pick: Washington State +13 (Play to +10)

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