- Associated Press - Thursday, September 28, 2017

No. 5 Southern California (4-0, 2-0 Pac-12) at No. 16 Washington State (4-0, 1-0), Friday, 10:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Line: USC by 3 ½.

Series record: USC leads 59-4-4.

WHAT’S AT STAKE

Games on the Palouse haven’t been much bigger than this. USC leaves the state of California for the first time this season and heads north on a short week trying to get Sam Darnold and its potent offense clicking. Washington State has faltered in big games in the past and has a chance to prove its validity as a top contender in the Pac-12 North. And a Friday night in Pullman has a chance to be a wild atmosphere.

KEY MATCHUP

USC defensive backs vs. Washington State wide receivers. In their one test against a quality opponent this season - Boise State - Washington State’s receivers had problems getting open and caused the Cougars offense to stumble. USC’s defensive backs are better than that of Boise State. If the Cougars receivers can’t get open it will be a very long night for the Air Raid offense.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

USC: RB Ronald Jones II. Jones did not play last week against California due to a leg injury but topped 100 yards rushing in each of the USC’s first two games to open the season. He’s clearly the Trojans top back and his return against the Cougars could be critical against a Washington State defense that’s giving up 120 yards per game rushing.

Washington State: DL Hercules Mata’afa. The versatile defensive lineman can be a major disruption for any offense. He has eight tackles for loss and 4 ½ sacks in the first four games for the Cougars. How well Mata’afa can unsettle USC’s offense will be important.

FACTS & FIGURES

USC has won nine of past 10 against Washington State, the lone setback coming in 2013 in Los Angeles, a 10-7 loss. … Cougars are 18th in the nation in defense giving up just 4.37 yards per play. … USC has never lost to Washington State when ranked in the AP poll top five. … Washington State has played USC at four different sites in the state of Washington: Martin Stadium in Pullman; Joe Albi Stadium in Spokane (1958, 1970, 1974); and Husky Stadium (1972) and the Kingdome (1976) in Seattle.

___

AP college football website: collegefootball.ap.org and www.Twitter.com/AP_Top25

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