Probable Starters vs. USC:
WR (SE): 2 CHARLES DILLON (6-0, 188, Sr.)
LT: 55 VAUGHN LESUMA (6-5, 329, Jr.)
LG: 70 BOBBY BYRD (6-7, 307, Sr.)
C: 69 KENNY ALFRED (6-2, 300, So.)
RG: 60 DAN ROWLANDS (6-4, 284, Jr.)
RT: 76 MICAH HANNAM (6-4, 279, Fr.)
TE: 41 JED COLLINS (6-2, 250, Sr.)
WR (SB): 5 MICHAEL BUMPUS (6-0, 198, Sr.)
RB: 31 DWIGHT TARDY (5-10, 200, So.)
WR (FL): 4 BRANDON GIBSON (6-1, 202, Jr.)
QB: 10 ALEX BRINK (6-3, 215, Sr.)
Best Offensive Player: QB Alex Brink (seen below)
QUARTERBACK -- The Cougars offense revolves around the QB, and they have themselves a good one in Brink. Washington State has produced some prolific passers, including Mark Rypien, Drew Bledsoe, Ryan Leaf, Jason Gesser, and now Brink. WSU coach Bill Doba has kept the same wide-open passing attack that his former boss Mike Price (now head coach at UTEP) first installed in Pullman back in 1989. Coming into this season, Brink had already started 28 games in his career, throwing for 7,095 yards 50 TD's. He's coming off a very solid 2006 season in which he was named 2nd Team All-Pac-10 after passing for 2,899 yards and 19 TD's to only 10 INT's. Brink has started this season fast. In just three games, he's completed 81 out of 110 passes (73.6%) for 947 yards and 10 TD's. He's only thrown 2 INT's and has been sacked twice. He is not as likely to buckle under pressure the way Sam Keller does, but USC still must focus on rushing the QB and force some easy turnovers this weekend.
PASSING GAME -- What about the playmakers surrounding Brink? Gone is Jason Hill, the Cougars all-time leader in receiving yards and touchdown catches, as well as a 3-time all-conference selection, but the WR corps is still dangerous. Senior Michael Bumpus had a nice game against the Trojans last season with 11 catches for 112 yards, and has teamed with junior flanker Brandon Gibson to form a nice 1-2 punch for Brink this season. So far on the year, Bumpus has 22 catches for 273 yards and 2 TD's working out of the slot, while Gibson has 20 catches for 279 yards and 4 TD's. The balanced passing attack extends to senior split end Charles Dillon (148 rec. yards, TD) and tight end Jed Collins (94 rec. yards, TD). The Trojan secondary looked shaky last week, so the Cougars are very much capable of exploiting them through the air. The offensive line has only surrendered two sacks in 111 pass attempts this season, so if they continue that trend, Brink and his receivers could have a big day.
RUNNING GAME -- Washington State has an effective running game as well. Sophomore running back Dwight Tardy (pictured above) has ran for 303 yards and 4 TD's this season and, like Bumpus, hopes to duplicate the performance he had against the Trojans last season. Tardy carried 11 times for 62 yards, and added 2 receptions for 21 yards and a TD against USC last season. The line has done a solid job opening running lanes for Cougar backs to run through. They paved the way for 157 yards on 32 rushes (4.9 avg.) against 7th ranked Wisconsin in the opener, 185 yards on 35 rushes (5.3 avg.) in a 45-17 route of San Diego State in week 2, and 138 yards on 39 rushes (3.5 avg.) in week 3 against a familiar foe in Idaho, whose head coach is former WSU defensive coordinator Robb Akey. What makes their running game click is the Cougars' spread formation and threat of the pass, which stretches defenses. This makes it extremely difficult to load the box, and stuff the run behind the line of scrimmage. It's nothing the Trojans haven't seen before, the only question will be which team executes better.
Tomorrow we'll preview the Cougars' defense...