No. 6 Cougars, No. 3 Trojans match up in many areas
PULLMAN, Wash. -- There are more similarities between Southern California and Washington State than their identical 7-1 records, Cougars coach Bill Doba said Tuesday.
Offensively and defensively, the teams mirror each other in many areas, Doba said as the No. 6 Cougars prepare for their Pacific-10 Conference showdown with third-ranked USC on Saturday in the Los Angeles Coliseum.
USC leads the conference in total offense, averaging 444 yards per game, while WSU is tops in total defense, allowing 303.8 yards per game. The Trojans are No. 1 in scoring offense (39.9 points per game) and rushing offense (160 yards per game). The Cougars are No. 1 in scoring defense (16.9 points per game) and rushing defense (68.1 yards).
Both teams are led by starting quarterbacks who were backups last season and both feature dominating defenses anchored by the front four, Doba said.
"I think their front is awesome," Doba said of the Trojans defensive line nicknamed the "Wild Bunch II."
"They asked me to compare them to our front and I think our two inside people are a little bit bigger," Doba said. "They're aggressive. They get off the ball well. They get off of blocks well. And they've got some depth. I think that's the strength of their defense.
"Their linebackers are good, don't get me wrong, so is their secondary," Doba said. "They're a solid football team, from top to bottom."
The Cougars' experienced front four don't have a nickname, but are building a reputation with sacks and tackles for loss. The WSU defense leads the league in sacks, with 31, followed by the Trojans, with 30.
Both are starting after backing up prolific passers in USC's Heisman winner, Carson Palmer, and WSU's record-setting Jason Gesser, but fans should not be surprised at their successes, Doba said.
"As far as the coaches are concerned, Kegel's not a surprise. As far as the general public and maybe the media, he's played better than they thought he would," Doba said. "Leinart is kind of like Matt. You can see improvement each week. I think he's exceeded their expectations also."
Sophomore wide receiver Mike Williams could be a headache for the Cougars' secondary, particularly Jason David, WSU's 5-foot-8 senior right cornerback. Williams is 6-foot-5.
How does a smaller corner handle a taller, talented receiver?
"Kick him in the shins? I don't know," Doba said. "He's got to try get up in his face and try to jam him, give him a variety of looks."
But if the Cougars pay too much attention to Williams, Leinart can find senior wide receiver Keary Colbert, Doba said.
"A guy who makes their offense so good is Colbert. He's been a good receiver for the last couple of years. He's a good blocker and an excellent receiver and has speed," Doba said. "They've got a lot of weapons."
This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index