Jake Dickert believes Lincoln Riley is the best play designer in college football.

Washington State’s head coach met with reporters after practice on Wednesday and heaped praise onto the first-year USC coach. It’s clear there’s a tremendous amount of respect there.

There are interesting branches giving this game between the sixth-ranked Trojans and 4-1 Cougars a bit of a familiar feeling, even though neither men have coached together before. Riley comes from the Mike Leach coaching tree, which obviously spread its roots in Pullman. Dickert’s Cougars also now run the same kind of offensive system.

But Riley has put his own spin on the Leach Air Raid. He runs it more than you’d expect such a system to. Riley’s teams have Air Raid principles but are usually built on more of a balanced foundation. Dickert couldn’t say enough about the job Riley does as a play-caller.

“I think he’s like a formational wizard,” said Dickert. “Each week, he schemes up unique, different things to challenge you. And he does a good job of really checking everything from the sideline, giving a thumbs-up or a thumbs-down.”

The Trojans are top-10 nationally this season both in scoring and in yards per play. The offense has lulled at times, but it has proven it can put up points in bunches. USC is hovering above 40 points a game even with a 17-point performance on the ledger in the early going.

“I think Coach Riley is the peak offensive mind, probably in the country,” Dickert said earlier this week. “Calling plays he’s phenomenal. He puts his guys in unique situations and he’s so multiple. I just think the way he sees it and calls it is as good as there is out there. That’s why he has all the accomplishments, why he’s done it that well over time.

“It’s a challenge, but our guys will be ready to go and excited to play.”

The Cougars come to town for a 4:30 p.m. PT kick on FOX this Saturday.