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First look: USC at Washington State

UPDATED: Mon., Sept. 25, 2017

Southern California quarterback Sam Darnold looks to pass during the first half of the Rose Bowl against Penn State, in Pasadena, Calif. (Mark J. Terrill / AP)
Southern California quarterback Sam Darnold looks to pass during the first half of the Rose Bowl against Penn State, in Pasadena, Calif. (Mark J. Terrill / AP)

What is it? No. 5 USC (4-0, 2-0) visits No. 16 Washington State (4-0, 1-0) at Martin Stadium in the last of five consecutive home games for the Cougars.

Where is it? Martin Stadium in Pullman.

When is it? At 7:30 p.m. on Friday.

Where can I watch it? ESPN will carry the live broadcast.

Who is favored? For the first time this season, not the Cougars. USC was a 4-point favorite as of Sunday night.

Why WSU will win: Both teams have to prepare on a short week, but in theory that should prove to be more strenuous for the visiting team. And in USC’s case, back-to-week road games paired with the abbrieviated schedule doesn’t make this any more ideal. The Cougars have been able to start fast this season, whereas the Trojans take awhile to get going. While WSU is scoring 24 points in the first half of games, USC is scoring just 12. And the Cougars will have another big advantage if star running back Ronald Jones isn’t able to play on Friday night. He missed the game against Cal with a thigh contusion/sprained ankle.

Why USC will win: If Sam Darnold and Deontay Burnett can play pitch-and-catch like they have four other times this season, it could quickly turn into a tiresome day for Alex Grinch’s secondary. Darnold, the star sophomore quarterback, and Burnett, an emerging junior receiver, have already hooked up 33 times this season for 462 yards and five touchdowns. You can pencil Burnett in for at least seven catches – he hasn’t had fewer in a game this season – and Darnold has thrown nine touchdowns in his last three games.

What happened last time? Luke Falk played the first meaningful snaps of his Washington State career after Connor Halliday went down with a broken leg in a 44-17 Cougars loss at Martin Stadium. The Cougars were already in a 14-0 hole when Falk replaced Halliday in the first quarter, but the backup breathed some offensive life into the game for WSU and finished 38-for-57 passing with 346 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Falk has become one of the all-time Pac-12 greats since the Cougars and Trojans last met on a football field, having thrown for 12,266 yards and 103 touchdowns.

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