Washington State was similar to Fresno State purely in the sense that they threw the ball more than just about anyone in the nation in 2013. The Cougars rarely relied on the running game and did little to control the play clock throughout the season. In week two, the Cougars traveled to USC and left with a 10-7 upset victory over the Trojans. Taking a deeper look into the game we see USC's defense allowed the following:
Passing yards allowed - 215 yards, 1 TD, 2 interceptions
Rushing yards allowed - 7 yards, no touchdowns
Turnovers forced - 2 interceptions, 1 fumble recovery
QB Sacks - 4
We are able to see that although the Cougars put the ball in the air often, USC was able to limit the amount of passing yards the Cougars compiled. USC also controlled the time of possession in this game as they held the ball for over 32 minutes.
Arizona State is the closest thing to the Bulldogs offense USC faced in 2013. Arizona State was able to throw the ball with relative ease as well as run it effectively against the Trojans. In their 62-41 victory over the Trojans, Arizona State racked up over 600 yards of total offense against a Trojans defense that had been stellar up to this point in the season. Arizona State's offensive breakdown went as follows:
Passing yards allowed - 351 yards, 3 TDs, 1 interception
Rushing yards allowed - 261 yards, 4 touchdowns
Turnovers forced - 1 interception
QB Sacks - 1
USC's struggles against the Sun Devils can be traced to the fact that their defensive line was not able to pressure the Devils QB. At the same time the Sun Devils had relatively no problems opening up running lanes as they carved the USC defense for over 250 yards rushing.
Oregon State fielded one of the top passing QB's yardage wise in the nation in 2013. Sean Mannion began the season on a tear leading the Beavers to a 6-1 record. Unfortunately for Mannion the Beavers would drop their final five games of the season to finish a disappointing 6-6. However, the Beavers offense was similar to Fresno State's in the sense that they also threw the ball at a level most teams in college football did not. Against USC the Beavers offense was shut down in a 31-14 loss. Here is how the Beavers offense fared against the Trojans:
Passing yards allowed - 277 yards, 1 TD, 3 interceptions
Rushing yards allowed - 92 yards, 0 touchdowns
Turnovers forced - 3 interceptions
QB Sacks - 2
USC was able to pressure Mannion into three mistakes which directly led to points for the Trojans. We are able to see a common theme with the Trojan defense. In games where they shut down the opposing team's running game they came out victorious because they were able to constantly pressure the QB. In games where USC could not keep the running game down they struggled to compete. Obviously USC was not victorious against Washington State, but they shut down the Cougars running and passing game giving the Trojans a chance to win the game.
The last team USC faced with a potent offense was UCLA. The Trojans would lose to the Bruins by the score of 35-14 to close out the regular season. UCLA's offense was not the most potent numbers wise, but they were able to move the ball on the ground and as we have mentioned when a team can move the ball on the ground against the Trojans they tend to have success overall. Here are the stats from the UCLA game:
Passing yards allowed - 208 yards, 0 TD, 0 interceptions
Rushing yards allowed - 188 yards, 5 touchdowns
Turnovers forced - 0 turnovers
QB Sacks - 2
UCLA was able to move the ball on the ground which directly led to a lack of pressure on the Bruins QB and a total of five touchdowns on the ground.
What would all of this research do for us if we could not use it for some type of analysis on the game itself? Fresno State is going to have to find a way to run the ball against the Trojans. The Bulldogs have been a pass first offense all season. They have faced very few teams that can bring defensive pressure with their front seven like the Trojans will be able to. San Diego State and Utah State may be the only two teams who were able to pressure the Dogs QB Derek Carr anywhere remotely close to what the Trojans will be able to do. If the Bulldogs are not able to use the run game to alleviate Carr and the passing game it could be a long day for the Bulldogs and their record breaking QB. Expect the Trojans to pressure Carr throughout the course of the game. This may be the one aspect that will decide who wins this game. At this point there is no telling how the Bulldogs will handle the Trojans pressure, but if they are able to do so look for the Bulldogs to walk away with a victory. If they cannot USC will have little problem shutting down the Bulldogs defense and leaving with their tenth victory of the season.