Before each game this USC football season, Annenberg Media’s sports staff will make prop predictions and pick a winner. Read on to see our editors’ picks for Week 4 against Oregon State.
Q: What will be the score of the third quarter alone?
USC was not a third-quarter team against San José State or Stanford. Combined, it only managed to score a field goal across the two third quarters. But as already established, that was a different team (for various reasons) — Washington State was the exact opposite. Head coach Donte Williams must have given one legendary halftime speech, because the Trojans came out HOT. The team scored 28 unanswered points — one touchdown even coming from the defense — equaling their final score against Stanford. We are only just learning what Williams can do as head coach, but halftime adjustments and pep talks may be his specialty. Expect the Trojans to come out of the half ready to play, taking the third quarter over the Beavers 14-0.
– Ava Brand
USC has struggled to generate pressure all season, currently ranking dead last in the Pac-12 in sacks with only three. Oregon State, meanwhile, has only allowed three sacks this entire season. Unless junior linebacker Drake Jackson goes on a tear, it’ll be hard for USC to have a multi-sack performance. At the same time, USC’s secondary has been much better at generating turnovers with four interceptions this season. Redshirt sophomore quarterback Chance Nolan hasn’t thrown an interception yet, but he played opponents far inferior to USC. I predict that streak will come to an end. USC will generate two combined sacks and turnovers in this game.
– L.J. Dow
I get that people are skeptical about Slovis, and I get that the majority of USC fans would have preferred freshman Jaxson Dart in the starting role if he were healthy. I don’t necessarily disagree with either thought, but I can’t say I’m completely out on the junior. After all, in the first two games of the season, Slovis threw for an average of 239.5 yards with above a 65% completion percentage, with three touchdowns and a pick. It’s not great, but … it’s not terrible?
USC’s play-calling in Week 3 was the best it’s been all season, so maybe offensive coordinator Graham Harrell has at least somewhat figured it out. The Trojans’ overall energy, including on the offensive side, under Williams should only help Slovis too, as should the Coliseum crowd that I anticipate to be robust. Also: Slovis has something to prove. He knows it. And this is Oregon State, a team that has allowed well over 300 passing yards to each of its two FBS opponents this year. Slovis will make USC the third.
– Nathan Ackerman
Q: Which receiver not named Drake London will lead USC in receiving yards?
The receiver who will have the biggest game aside from superstar junior Drake London is sophomore Gary Bryant Jr. Bryant proved he had a deep ball connection and chemistry with Slovis throughout training camp, but his deep-ball ability finally showed up when it counted last week. Bryant caught three passes for 56 yards, including his first career touchdown for 38 yards that sparked 45 unanswered points by the Trojans. He split the defense up the middle using his otherworldly speed to blow past the secondary for the touchdown. Bryant’s deep-ball ability will lead to him becoming a fixture in the offensive attack as he will be the leading receiver not named Drake London for the Trojans this weekend.
– Skyler Trepel
The buzz around Trojan football over the last week has not only been about an overdue coaching change, but also about the debut of Dart last Saturday. While many USC fans might be thrilled to watch the Trojans under new leadership, just as many may have been looking forward to watching Dart play in person. With Dart ruled out, I think it’s unlikely the Coliseum sells out tonight, especially considering attendance didn’t even crack 60,000 in the Trojans’ home opener after a year without live events in Los Angeles. That was also before USC was crushed at home by Stanford, demoralizing a large portion of the fan base. However, it would be nice to see fans come out to support the Trojans in Williams’ first home game in charge of the team.
– Wyatt Allsup
I don’t mean to rain on anybody’s parade after last week’s brilliant performance by Dart and consummate head coaching debut by Williams. But a look back at the Washington State game shows some unsustainable circumstances. The Trojans’ defense only looked great once a backup, walk-on quarterback entered the game for the Cougars. And the 28-point third quarter performance was overly reliant on risky passes to London; Dart’s interception count could’ve easily been three or four. And now Dart is injured, forcing Slovis back into the starting job under precarious conditions.
That being said, I’m the only editor going against the consensus, and against a betting line that has USC favored by 10.5 points. But consider me skeptical; we all thought the Stanford game would go USC’s direction until it completely flipped on its head. Oregon State is coming off of two solid victories and has shown a propensity for running the ball, while also stopping the run game on the defensive end. Given the Beavers’ momentum, USC’s quarterback issues and a sprinkle of a post-victory letdown, I think the Trojans will fall behind the eight-ball early and struggle to come back.
– Eddie Sun