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Preview: USC at Washington State
September 30, 2017 / 6:59 AM / 23 days ago

Preview: USC at Washington State

USC and Washington State will meet for the first time since 2014 when the No. 16 Cougars host the No. 5 Trojans in a Pac-12 showdown on Friday night. Washington State has won its first four games for the first time since opening the 2001 season with seven straight wins, and USC has won 13 consecutive games, its longest streak since winning 34 in a row from 2003-05.

The Cougars will be playing their fifth straight home game to open the season for the first time in program history, and they’ve scored at least 31 points in their first four wins. USC hasn’t had an easy time in any of its first four victories, but the Trojans are a lot better off than last season, when they opened 1-3, including 0-2 in the Pac-12 after losses to Stanford and Utah. That was the stretch when Sam Darnold took over as starting quarterback and he’s gone 13-1 in that role, though he hasn’t been as sharp as many expected this season. His completion percentage (67.2) is nearly identical to last season, but he has been intercepted seven times in four games, compared to eight times in 10 games as a starter last season.

TV: 10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN. LINE: USC -3.5.

ABOUT USC (4-0, 2-0 Pac-12): Darnold is running out of healthy receivers at an alarming rate, and the latest to go down is Deontay Burnett, who is fifth in Division I-A in receptions (33) and seventh in receiving yards (462). Burnett has a shoulder injury and didn’t practice Monday, leaving his status in doubt against the Cougars. USC is already without its second-best receiver, Steven Mitchell Jr., who missed Saturday’s win against California with a groin injury, and he appears further away from returning than Burnett.

ABOUT WASHINGTON STATE (4-0, 1-0): Luke Falk is in his fourth year as the starting quarterback for the Cougars and he’s off to a strong start, completing 76.9 percent of his passes for 1,378 yards and 14 touchdowns with one interception. His completion percentage is tied for first in the country, his touchdown total is second and his passing yards are fifth. Falk made the first strong impression of his career against the Trojans three years ago when he replaced Connor Halliday, the nation’s passing yardage leader at the time who suffered a season-ending broken leg in the first quarter, and completed 38-of-57 passes for 346 and two touchdowns in the 44-17 loss.

EXTRA POINTS

1. This is the first matchup between USC and Washington State in which both were unbeaten after at least four games.

2. The Trojans are 19-3-2 in games played in Pullman, Wash.

3. Washington State has scored three defensive touchdowns this season, tied for second in the FBS.

PREDICTION: Washington State 34, USC 31

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