In danger of losing a second consecutive game to a coronavirus outbreak, USC will attempt to play Washington State two days later than initially planned, with the hope that several Trojans currently in quarantine will be cleared to return by then.
USC (3-0) will face Washington State (1-1) at the Coliseum next Sunday at 6 p.m., assuming it can get its COVID-19 issues under control by then.
The swift decision to move the game was made Sunday night, as USC deals with four positive cases and seven others quarantined because of contact tracing protocols. Those 11 players in isolation left the Trojans below the minimum roster threshold on the offensive line this past weekend, forcing the Pac-12 Conference to declare a no contest between USC and Colorado. The teams had been scheduled to play Saturday at the Coliseum.
The move to reschedule suggests that USC again wouldn’t have met the minimum of seven available scholarship offensive linemen Friday. How much of a difference two additional days might make in that availability remains to be seen.
In the wake of the Trojans’ trip home from Utah following their win Nov. 21, one USC player tested positive Monday, followed by another Tuesday. USC announced Tuesday that five other players were subsequently deemed close contacts, meaning all five would have to isolate for 14 days.
Those five presumably could be available by next Sunday, if their contact with the initial positive cases was limited to the team plane ride home from Salt Lake City last Sunday. Otherwise, only the two USC players who initially tested positive, assuming they’re clear of the virus, would be able to return, according to Los Angeles County public health guidelines.
An additional player tested positive Thursday, triggering the Pac-12's decision. Since then, a fourth positive case was identified and two additional players were isolated, leaving USC even more short-handed.
Neither of the two players identified as close contacts of either of those cases will be available Sunday, but it's unclear whether the two players who tested positive could be cleared following the required 10-day waiting period.
USC football practice and workouts remained on pause as of Sunday night, but the team will attempt to return to activities Tuesday, pending another round of PCR tests.
Washington State has faced its own share of obstacles related to COVID-19 in recent weeks. Its last two games — against Stanford and Washington — were canceled amid an outbreak that left nine players, including quarterback Jayden de Laura, in isolation and unavailable to play.
UPDATE: Kickoff times & TV info for this coming weekend's #Pac12FB games are set!
➡️ @WSUCougarFB at @USC_FB moves from Friday, Dec. 4 to Sunday, Dec. 6 at 6p PT / 7p MT on FS1.
Full lineup for this coming weekend.👇🏈 pic.twitter.com/CESpL0ckWU
— Pac-12 Conference (@pac12) November 30, 2020
Earlier this week, Washington State coach Nick Rolovish expressed confidence that the Cougars would be cleared to play in time to play USC.
They’ll have two extra days cushion now, meaning that Washington State will have gone more than three full weeks without a game when it takes the field Sunday.
Several rounds of testing remain before that becomes a reality, as USC hopes to get a handle on the outbreak that cost it a chance to prove itself against the only other undefeated team in its division, Colorado.
Under tiebreaker rules determined ahead of this shortened season, the 3-0 Trojans still must play at least one more game to qualify for the conference title game. They will only have one more shot after Sunday, with just a matchup against crosstown rival UCLA left on their schedule.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.