And so what if the Trojans haven't lost a Pac-10 conference game in the last 24? Who really notices a record of 48 wins in the last 50? After all, Robb Akey can't control what they do in all those other games. But he is betting on his guys to continue improving and execute their defensive game plan the way they know how.
‘If we're playing the kind of season we expect to play, then that means every game will be a big game," Akey said. "They're the ones with the pressure on them. They've got to try to keep the streak alive."
Akey said over the last couple weeks, the defense has cleaned things up and he hopes to keep the stop corps performing strongly, which means limiting the big play in both the ground and air game.
"Our expectations are to perform the way we have been in the last couple weeks -- handling the running game and making big plays in our favor. Hopefully that will outweigh the big plays that they're going to make," Akey said. "If we eliminate their big plays, then we'll be in good shape."
Akey said the issue facing the defense this week is a well balanced offense. In the last three games, USC has thrown the ball 116 times and run it 106, so there isn't one particular area to key on.
"We've got to be where we belong at all points in time," Akey said. "We've got obviously a stronger opponent coming in to town this week and if we perform better against them, then that gives us the opportunity to do the kinds of things that we want to," Akey said. "I'd like to see a strong defensive performance."
Running backs coach Kelly Skipper, who also coaches the Cougar special teams, echoed Doba's comments this week, on expecting to win versus thinking you can win. "USC's a great team and we just need to go in there, expect to win and make a lot of great plays," said Skipper.
DOBA ON THURSDAY wanted to move away from talk surrounding the kicking game and the struggles of Loren Langley, but provided some insight on the situation nonetheless.
"Leave the kid alone," said Doba in response to a reporter's question on when Doba may attempt field goals and when they'll go for it on fourth down. "If it's the end of the game and the score's tied and we need a 50-yarder, he'll kick it. But if it's (an earlier) fourth-and-three or four on the 25-yard line, we'll go for it.
"And we'll see how he warms up -- if he kicks all three of them through and he looks like he's hitting it...then we'll use him. I don't want to put him out there for 45 and 42 yard field goals and have him continue to miss, I think it's just going to continue to hurt his confidence. But if it's to win the game, if it's the end of the game, I don't care if it'll hurt his confidence, we'll try it."
Doba also pointed out the risk/reward aspect of missing a field goal and converting on a big fourth down, from the momentum seized to scoring six points.
As to the Cougs' chances this week, Doba cited Colorado and Michigan State's near upsets of Georgia and Notre Dame as why they play the games.
"So it's anybody's game (this week)," said Doba. "They have to come to Pullman, which is difficult. Our stadium is not a fun place to play for our opponents, as a rule. And our turf...is new and (not yet packed down) so that will be a little different for them."
As Nike is to Oregon, Russell Athletic is to Washington State. Apparently in an effort to borrow a page from Nike's PR Handbook, Russell announced this week that the Cougars will be sporting a new look in Saturday's nationally televised (TBS) game with USC. Not even the coaches know yet what they'll see when they enter the lockerroom.