PULLMAN, Wash. — USC's defense is ranked No. 1 in the nation, a status earned in part with stellar play on third down.
USC opponents have converted only seven of 52 third-down attempts. Even in their 27-20 loss to Kansas State, the Trojans shut down the Wildcats 10 times in 12 third-down situations.
Middle linebacker Mike Pollard said the No. 18 Trojans must sustain that dominance today against No. 17 Washington State.
"The guys up front on the defensive line are creating all kinds of pressure on passing downs and getting into the backfield in running situations," Pollard said. "That's something we need to continue if we're going to win this conference."
USC's offense has converted 20 of 63 third-down attempts.
Washington State, which finished 10-2 last season, was picked as the preseason favorite in the Pacific 10 Conference.
USC quarterback Carson Palmer said the Cougars are worthy of the recognition.
"They won 10 games last season and they are playing well again," Palmer said. "Until someone beats them, you can't say they don't deserve it."
Kicker David Davis and wide receiver Jason Mitchell did not make the trip because of injuries.
Freshman receiver Chris McFoy made the traveling squad in Mitchell's place and could play on special teams.
Davis, who struggled against Colorado and Kansas State and was supplanted by Ryan Killeen against Oregon State, was hurt Thursday. Davis suffered a contusion on his left leg--his kicking leg--when he was hit after a field-goal attempt on the last play of practice.
Mitchell's back injury might force him to redshirt.
USC leads the series with Washington State, 50-7-4, its best winning percentage (85.2%) against any Pac-10 team. The Trojans have won 27 of the last 30 games between the schools.
They are 10-2-2 against the Cougars in Pullman and have won six games in a row here. USC's last loss here was in 1986.
As of Friday, a few tickets remained for the game at Martin Stadium, which has a capacity of 37,600. USC was expected to return some tickets.
The forecast calls for partly cloudy skies with temperatures in the low 60s.