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Interactive Graphic: Previewing WSU vs. USC

What must Washington State do to keep Martin Stadium from becoming a house of horrors Saturday?

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington State defense has particularly struggled at Martin Stadium this year.  In games at home, they rank 119th in total defense and 126th in scoring defense.

Football Outsiders has the 5-3 Trojans ranked 4th in the county in FEI and they play very efficient football.  Cody Kessler has only thrown 1 interception all year and USC sits at 15th nationally with a +7 turnover margin (WSU, at -8, ranks 118th).

The Cougs' post-Halloween date with the Trojans is appropriately scary, but where can WSU make some hay?

As the defense has struggled at home, the offense has shined, ranking 3rd nationally in total offense and 10th in scoring offense in games played within the friendly confines of Martin Stadium.

As most that follow college football are aware, USC was hit with some serious scholarship sanctions leaving them very thin across the board (although most of their starters are 4 and 5 star guys).  Can the Cougar offense exploit some depth issues?

The table below shows USC’s pass defense by quarter for the season; their performance takes a dip in the 2nd and 4th quarters (which happen to be the two quarters Connor Halliday and company perform best).

2014 USC Trojans Passing Defense Situational Stats

Situation G Att Comp Pct. Yards TD Int Rating Long 1st 15+ 25+
All Plays 8 314 179 57.0 1952 9 9 112.96 77 91 40 13
1st Half 8 161 93 57.8 981 2 7 104.34 77 48 19 6
2nd Half/OT 8 153 86 56.2 971 7 2 122.01 73 43 21 7
1st Quarter 8 61 35 57.4 309 0 3 90.09 27 18 6 2
2nd Quarter 8 100 58 58.0 672 2 4 113.05 77 30 13 4
3rd Quarter 8 63 34 54.0 300 2 1 101.28 29 15 4 2
4th Quarter 8 90 52 57.8 671 5 1 136.52 73 28 17 5

Those struggles could be due to tired legs from a lack of depth, but they're also facing a lot more passes in those quarters, presumably from teams needing to throw to stay in the game. If the Cougars can keep from getting boat raced early like they did vs. Arizona, they could have a shot.

Lastly I want to call out the stellar pass blocking of the Cougar o-line.  Kessler gets sacked every 16 pass attempts, but Joe Dahl, Cole Madison and the Cougar offensive line currently rank second in the Pac-12 in protecting the QB, allowing a sack every 28 throws.

Martin Stadium will be a house of horrors for one team on Saturday afternoon; if the Cougs start fast and tire out the thin USC defense, it could very well be the Trojans having nightmares once darkness falls.

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