Oddsmakers think Carroll will be charitable

ODDSMAKERS APPEAR TO be banking on Pete Carroll's good will this weekend. The early betting line for Saturday's USC-Washington State game has the No.6-ranked Trojans favored by "just" 42½ points. Given that the Cougs have lost their four Pac-10 games by an average of 47½ and that USC is, well, USC, the folks in Las Vegas seem awfully charitable in their assessment of how close this one will be.

The 1-6 Cougars have yet to cover one point spread this season, so presumably the oddsmakers were simply aiming for consistency, not precision.

About the only unanswered questions heading into this one are these:

* Will the 4-1 Trojans put triple-figures on the board or will Carroll, as he has done in four USC blowouts of WSU since 2003, take his foot off the pedal at halftime?

* Can the Cougars keep the second-longest consecutive-games scoring streak -- 280 contests, dating to September 1984 -- alive?

* Will WSU's starting quarterback -- whomever it might be -- get out of Martin Stadium in one piece?

Indeed, a quick glance at two statistics – total offense and total defense – illustrate how lopsided this game will be. The Trojans rank No. 4 in the nation in total D and No. 19 in total O. The Cougars are among the worst of all 119 Division IA teams in both categories, coming in at No. 114 and No. 108 respectively.

Translated, what that means is that USC is averaging 166 more offensive yards per game than WSU and giving up 195 fewer yards per game.

This shapes up as a match made in hell. Kickoff is at 12:30 Saturday in Pullman. FSN will carry the action live.

The Trojans' defensive is especially compelling. They lead the Pac-10 in every statistical category, courtesy of two Butkus Award candidates at linebacker -- Rey Maualuga and Brian Cushing – and two Thorpe Award nominees – Kevin Ellison and Seattle's Taylor Mays at safety. There's also tackle Fili Moala, who is on the watch list for the Outland and Lombardi trophies.

USC is coming off a 28-0 win over Arizona State. The Trojans, despite all their firepower, were far from perfect. They committed five turnovers and nine penalties. Running back Joe McKnight rushed for a career-high 143 yards on 11 carries. USC is now 74-9 since the beginning of the 2002 season.

NOTABLE: USC offensive line coach Golden Pat Ruel was a WSU assistant coach under Jim Walden in the late 70s and early 80s. And the Trojans' defensive coordinator is former Idaho head coach Nick Holt.


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