This is the game we’ve been waiting for, USC against Washington State, and the only thing I wish were different is the day of the kickoff, Friday instead of Saturday. If the game had been scheduled for Saturday, it’s reasonable to think that ESPN’s College GameDay would have made its first appearance in Pullman.
Instead, the popular Saturday morning college football pregame show will be in Blacksburg, Va., for the game between No. 2 Clemson and No. 12 Virginia Tech. The Tigers and Hokies, like the No. 5 Trojans and No. 16 Cougs, are unbeaten too, but I’m guessing with the Cougar flags showing up at various campuses around the country for 198 GameDays in a row that ESPN would have chosen Pullman over Blacksburg this week if the game was being played on Saturday.
I know it’s a small thing in the big picture, but I’m looking forward to seeing that show on the WSU campus sometime, and we’re getting closer with the Cougars off to a 4-0 start after a 48-7 manhandling of Nevada last Saturday.
I’m not sure if that final score reflected how good the Cougars are or how bad Nevada was; I’m hoping it was the former, but I think the latter contributed. I say that because the Wolf Pack lost to Idaho State a week prior and appeared to be overmatched physically and athletically from get to go Saturday afternoon at Martin Stadium.
Still, the Cougars have lost games like these or let inferior teams hang around in the past, so it was encouraging to see how dominant they were against the Wolf Pack.
I’ve watched the Trojans the past two weeks, and they don’t really look like the fifth-best team in the country. They arrive in Pullman with a 13-game winning streak and haven’t lost in more than a calendar year, since falling at Utah on Sept. 23, 2016.
But they were lucky to beat Texas in double overtime two weeks ago as 17-point favorites. And Cal gave USC a good game before losing 30-20 last Saturday in Berkeley. The Golden Bears might have pulled off the upset were it not for six turnovers.
I almost feel like Sam Darnold has been crowned the greatest college quarterback ever after his stunning performance against Penn State in the Rose Bowl last year. There’s no getting around it – he was fantastic in that game, but he hasn’t been fantastic since. I’m probably going to jinx the Cougs by being critical of Darnold, but then again, how can something a sports radio guy writes have anything to do with an outcome of a game? It doesn’t. So why not point out that Darnold has thrown seven interceptions in four games?
Now watch, he’ll probably have a flawless Friday night in Pullman, but I’ll hope he throws three more picks to add to his total while Luke Falk adds his name to the Heisman Trophy watch list by leading the Cougars to a surprising win.
I’m using the word “surprising” because I don’t think most Cougar fans expect us to win. We’re hoping that happens, but to think we’re going to beat USC, I don’t think we’re quite there yet. I want to be pleasantly surprised around 11 o’clock Friday night while the students rush the field after the Cougs beat USC and thrust themselves into the national championship picture.
National championship picture? Yes, if you’re 5-0, you’re a candidate to win the national championship at the almost-halfway point of the season, particularly if you just beat the No. 5 team in the country.
Maybe the national championship picture is far-fetched, but you know what? Beating USC isn’t, according to oddsmakers in Las Vegas. The Trojans are favored by four points. Four lousy points. I thought they’d be favored by seven or eight, maybe even 10. Four-point underdogs win all the time. Granted, four-point favorites win more frequently than four-point underdogs, but I guarantee that when four-point underdogs win, it’s never shocking, only surprising.
I’m ready to see us take the next step toward a 10-win season – if not 11 or even 12. And if it’s going to happen, it’ll start Friday night at Martin Stadium.