Washington St. eager to end No. 6 USC’s unbeaten start

Despite No. 6 USC making sweeping changes to most aspects of its football program during the offseason, the defense turned into a revenue machine

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Though No. 6 Southern California made sweeping changes to most aspects of its football program during the offseason, the defense’s transformation into a revenue machine is what really catches Jake Dickert’s eye.

The Washington State head coach (4-1, 1-1 Pac-12) was formerly the Cougars’ defensive coordinator, and he knows how hard it is to build that whopping plus-14 revenue margin — the best in FBS — that is already on display by the Trojans, who set out for their showdown at the Coliseum on Saturday night. It’s even more concerning because the Cougars have committed multiple turnovers in each of their games to date.

USC (5-0, 3-0) has forced 15 turnovers while committing just one — an interception by Caleb Williams last week in the Trojans’ win over Arizona State. Revenue has been a major factor in nearly every win for USC, who would have been undefeated with another win midway through new coach Lincoln Riley’s recovery season.

“They were incredible — just one year-round sales,” Dickert said. “That shows the level at which they operated offensively. We need to find a way to get some takeout. That’s going to be a big part of this game. … We have to be aggressive in picking our spots.”

Credit for this turnaround goes in part to another former Washington State defense coordinator: Alex Grinch, who held the position under Mike Leach for three years before moving on to high-profile jobs in Ohio State, Oklahoma and USC. The Trojans are tied for the FBS lead on takeaways as they face an offense from Washington State, which has given away the ball 12 times.

“That logo meant the world to me,” Grinch said of his time in Washington state. “You are my family and this is a great place. But as we tell our boys, the opponent is nameless, faceless.”

Grinch’s defense has had back-to-back respectable games against Pac-12 opponents, but high-octane Washington State has scored 110 points in its last three games. Quarterback Cameron Ward and the Cougars pose a huge challenge to the Trojans’ unbeaten run on either side of the ball, and nobody at USC seems excited about next week’s visit to defending Pac-12 champion Utah.

Everything points to a high-scoring shootout under the LA Lights unless the Trojans can continue their impressive winning streak.

The Cougars are not intimidated by USC’s unbeaten start, nor by the national spotlight that is focused on this game. They see this as a chance to establish themselves as a Pac-12 contender by shutting down a charged force.

“They have threats everywhere,” Dickert said. “They have one of the best quarterbacks in the country. They have three of the best receivers in the country. They have one of the best offensive lines in the country and a backlog from the first team.”

MIRACLE

Ward has impressed USC with his productivity and athleticism. He’s a Pac-12 leader with 289.0 passing yards per game, 13 TD passes and the conference’s best 131 completions.

“He’s a good quarterback, very elusive,” said USC defenseman Tuli Tuipulotu. “He looks pretty pretentious in the film too. We’re looking forward to playing it, so let’s get ready.”

I AM READY

Washington State is only playing its second away game of the season, but the Cougars upset a top-ranked Wisconsin team on their first outing from the Palouse. They narrowly lost to a top-ranked Oregon team and then defeated California last week, firmly establishing themselves as premature in Dickert’s first full season in charge.

RESET GAME

Williams is still in the midst of a stellar debut season at USC, but he has endured brief bouts of inaccuracy and long stretches of running for his safety over the past fortnight to keep the Trojans undefeated. The quarterback went 27 of 37 for 348 yards and three TDs while running for another score against Arizona State.

“I really don’t expect any of us,” Williams said. “We’re going to do our best, do our best… and I like my team. i like my boys Our culture is booming and still going.”

AT THE HEIGHT

Washington State received the 26th most votes in the most recent edition of the AP Top 25, so a win would see the Cougars ranked for the first time since 2019, Leach’s final season.

OLD buddy

Washington State offensive coordinator Eric Morris played receiver at Texas Tech while Riley was an assistant coach at his alma mater from 2004-08, including two seasons as receiver-coach with the Red Raiders.

“He was a fun player,” Riley said. “Underrecruited bloke who was a smart player. Just a very tough, reliable player. We had a great run there. It’s not surprising that he’s coaching and doing it well.”

https://www.king5.com/article/sports/ncaa/ncaaf/cougars/washington-st-eager-to-end-no-6-uscs-unbeaten-start/281-99924da8-a0a5-47d5-a145-d1db5d548be3 Washington St. eager to end No. 6 USC’s unbeaten start

Emma Bowman

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