'Their defense can't stop anybody': Joel Klatt shreds USC's defense ahead of Wazzu matchup
USC and Washington State play each other Saturday evening on FOX in primetime. Unfortunately for those of us who will be watching from home, FOX’s Joel Klatt won’t be in the booth for the game.
But he did give us a preview of the matchup earlier this week.
“I think it’s a huge look-ahead for USC because in their mind they’re thinking to themselves, ‘Hey man, it’s Washington State, our big test is ahead of us. It’s the Utes, it’s the defending Pac-12 champions.’ But, hold on. That Washington State team, they’re feisty,” Klatt said. “Let’s not forget this is a Washington State team that’s still 4-1. And in the one loss they had against a more talented Oregon team, they held a 12-point lead with four minutes to go in the fourth quarter. They likely should have won that game.
“This is a game they could absolutely win, even on the road. I know they haven’t had a lot of success at USC, and not many teams have by the way over the course of history in the Pac-12. But they could absolutely win this game.”
Because Klatt is all the way out on the USC defense.
“It comes down to one thing. One thing. Turnovers,” he said. “I know a lot games come down to turnovers but in particular with USC, it comes down to turnovers — and the reason is their defense cannot stop anybody unless they get the turnovers.
“Cam Ward, I’m looking at you. … I really like his game. This is a team that has gone on the road and they’ve beaten Wisconsin this year. But this is a guy that has seven interceptions — that’s 120th in college football right now. And he’s facing a defense in USC that has intercepted more passes than anybody else in the country. That’s the only way they can stop you on defense. They’re not going to stop you if you possess the ball. If you don’t turn it over, USC is in trouble.”
USC has made its living so far this season by dominating the turnover margin. The Trojans are one of only four teams in the country with just a single turnover — and it came late against Arizona State in Game No. 5. The Trojans also lead the country in takeaways with 15.
Interestingly though, the Trojans had just one takeaway in the ASU game — and it came on the final drive of the game — after producing multiple in every game prior and four each in three of those games.
USC’s defense ranks 71st in yards per play allowed (5.5) and 101st in yards per carry allowed (4.5). When teams haven’t given the ball away, they’ve moved it.
Ward, a transfer to Wazzu this offseason from FCS Incarnate Word, has been loose with the football, taking chances on balls he probably shouldn’t throw. Only Oregon State’s Chance Nolan has thrown more interceptions. USC picked him off four times. Can it bait Ward into some poor throws?
It’s worth pointing out that Klatt isn’t burying the Trojans. He’s had them in his top 10 all season. But he’s putting them on upset watch this week.
“USC is favored by 13, that’s too many,” he said. “I think it’s a sloppy game from their offense, it’s a look-ahead game for them and if they don’t get the turnovers, I think Cam Ward and the Washington State team is going to be closer than the 13. USC wins it late, but closer than the 13.”