The University of Southern California is a name held with high prestige from academics to athletics. And as far as the west coast is concerned, it may be unparalleled. The Trojan’s football program, claiming 11 national titles, is no exception.
The last time Washington State (3-0) traveled to Southern California (1-2) in 2013, it was a David and Goliath-like affair; however, the disparity between both programs has since been reduced to execution, coachability and quality of coaching. Talent and roster depth is no longer the discussion.
WSU has only beaten USC twice in a row on one previous occasion (2000, 2002), but that could change this Friday night when Mike Leach and company pay the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum a visit.
The Leach-era owns two wins over USC (2013, 2017) despite the fact Washington State has only emerged victorious 10 times in 72 meetings. To call the all-time series lopsided would be a massive understatement.
If WSU walks away from week four with a win, it would be the first time in program history the Cougs beat Southern California in back-to-back seasons. And though a young and faltering squad, USC is more than capable to make a run in the struggling Pac-12 South.
“Defensively, they’ve got people back in all three phases,” said Leach in his Monday press conference. “Offensively, of course, they’re always explosive.”
As for the Cougs, their biggest advantage this week – or any other week for that matter – is their mentality. Head Coach Mike Leach has instilled a contagious mindset throughout the entire WSU football program focusing only on factors they can control. He aims to eliminate the outside noise, put his head down, and work micro-ambitiously toward his goal: one win a week.
When asked by a reporter if Leach thought his team had the ability to follow suit, the head coach responded, “I think so, but its something I think you have to constantly stress and constantly focus on.”
By a simple observation, he would be right. Defensive lineman Nick Begg, safety Skyler Thomas and receiver Jamire Calvin all replicated the insatiable demeanor of their head coach when speaking to the media on Monday. It is best described as an addiction to improvement.
“I think they got a sense of it, but I don’t think we are exactly pushed to our limits,” elaborated Leach. “Everybody can work harder than they think they can or be better than they think they can. They have to continue to push that so we raise the ceiling.”
When Washington State steps off the plane in Los Angeles looking to make history, the boys donning crimson and gray will likely take the romanticized storyline as nothing more than another day at work.
Perhaps for the first time in over a decade, WSU will glace across to the opposing sideline, eyeball the Men of Troy and dare to think, “Huh, we’re better than those guys,” while simultaneously standing in their stadium.
And as a road underdog, that is precisely the edge needed.
Kickoff is scheduled for Friday at 7:30 p.m. Live coverage of the action can be found at ESPN.