WSU and USC: Moving in different directions?

AFTER NOT PLAYING in Los Angeles last year due to conference realignment, the Cougs will be at USC early this season, in Week Two. That helps explain why WSU coaches are recruiting the L.A. area hard during this May Evaluation period. Meanwhile, Bill Moos has done a 180 from last year, seeking to lower expectations for '13, saying 2014 is when it will all come together. Which begs asking...

Does Moos have a little possum in him?

Oh, USC is going to be heavily favored over the Cougars, there's no doubt about that. And unbiased observers will point to the Trojans having better talent across the board. But is the gap really all that great so as to preclude a WSU upset?

I don't think so.

USC is coming off a season where they were the preseason No. 1 -- and proceeded to stumble badly to a 7-6 record. Divisions and distractions within the locker room came to a boil towards the end of the season, and this is only Year 2 of the sanctions, where the Trojans are limited to 15 commits and 75 total players on scholarship.

USC hugely decreased the amount of contact last year in practices because of the lack of depth. After going 7-6, Lane Kiffin reversed course and ramped up the contact this spring. And a large amount of injuries followed, including standout receiver George Farmer who is now out for the year.

MUCH WILL DEPEND on which Cougar team shows up. If it's the one that played against Oregon last year, an upset is a real possibility. If it's the squad that played at Utah, the outcome won't be in doubt for long.

That the game is in L.A. should bode well for the Cougs in one respect – the California players on the WSU roster are going to want to perform well at home. If they falter, it won't be because they're not up for this one.

The strength of the Trojan defense in 2013 will be in the front seven. The secondary looks suspect, especially when forced to play man coverage.

Washington State will likely need to employ accurate, quick, short passes to establish a rhythm. If they find success, the mid-range and deep balls will follow. As will a Cougar win.

And that would only help further establish WSU's recruiting presence in SoCal. Some of the groundwork being laid in L.A. this May would prove even more valuable.

FOR THE NEXT few months, the speculation surrounding Kiffin and USC is only going to ramp up.

After so many fawning articles and columns last offseason about how USC and Kiffin had brilliantly positioned themselves for a 2012 run proved oh-so-false, media members are exacting their pound of flesh this offseason. They ended up looking foolish as USC stumbled to a 7-6 mark, and now they're looking to get their licks in.

That means distractions, and it could also mean USC's ability to bounce back from adversity will be limited, as it was in the second half of the 2012 season.

The Trojans don't have a starting quarterback yet. Cornerback is a monster concern. Athletic Director Pat Haden has said 2012 wasn't the bottom, that the toughest years are coming up.

Meanwhile, Moos continues to point towards the tough WSU schedule in 2013, opening at Auburn and USC on the road and setting expectations on the low end of the scale. And that's about right. But it doesn't mean the Cougs might not be primed for an upset… or two. Walk softly. And then bring out a big stick.

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