The No. 21 Colorado Buffaloes (4-1, 2-0 Pac-12) head to Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum to face the University of Southern California Trojans (2-3, 1-2 Pac-12) this weekend.
This comparison is harder than the previous weeks. USC is in a time of transition. The team is in the first full year of their new head coach, Clay Helton, and is trying to find a new quarterback with the departure of Cody Kessler after last season.
The Trojans have started to find consistency with redshirt freshman quarterback Sam Darnold. Under Darnold, the USC offense has started to click. Last week, he threw for 352 yards, three touchdowns and no picks. This opened up running lanes for tailback Justin Davis, who finished with 123 yards on 14 carries.
Colorado’s going to have to fire on all cylinders defensively to limit the Trojans’ offense. Standout wide receiver Juju Smith-Schuster is one of the best wideouts in the country. He’s also coming off a good week vs. ASU where he caught three touchdowns.
The Buffs counter with one of the best receiving corps in the country. Junior Bryce Bobo’s season has seemed largely like a highlight reel with his spectacular catches. Fellow junior Shay Fields, Jr. has the speed to make any defensive back struggle. Devin Ross hasn’t been drawing as much attention, but the junior from Altadena, CA. is second on the team in receiving yards and tied for first on the team with Fields with five touchdowns caught. Sophomore Jay MacIntyre has also caught valuable receptions and has been a solid blocker.
However, Colorado’s run game may not be enough. For the Trojans, Davis is getting 6.3 yards per carry on average. Once he’s off the field, the running game seems to struggle, though. The Buffs have been consistent with or without junior tailback Phillip Lindsay on the field. The team has found a nice compliment to Lindsay in sophomore Kyle Evans.
Freshman quarterback Steven Montez, who’s looked good in two full games as a starter, seems likely to get the start for Colorado. Head coach Mike MacIntyre said on Tuesday that he did not believe that senior quarterback Sefo Liufau’s ankle sprain was 100 percent healed. To keep the team winning, Montez will have to keep the hot hand.
Colorado’s defensive performance has been productive enough this year. But, the team is giving up a high amount of yards. The difference this year is that turnovers are happening, and they’re happening at critical moments.
Expect a lot of offense from the Trojans this week. There will likely also be a fair amount of points scored by both teams in this game. But if Colorado’s offense can keep up, which they’ve been doing almost all season, a late game heroic stand isn’t out of the question.
However, USC’s defense is full of talent. As an athlete, Adoree Jackson is one of the best in the country. His ability to return kicks and punts will have the Buffs facing another player like Michigan’s Jabrill Peppers. How well he actually does and the special teams’ performance will determine a lot about how the game turns out.
The Trojans are coming off a strong defensive performance last week, as well. If they keep up the momentum, that could spell bad things for Colorado.
Both teams are batting with expectations. USC has a long, recent history of success. Starting off as sluggish as it has is frightening to the players and the staff. Last week has returned some wind to their sails, but this week will be crucial to the rest of their season, as a Buffs’ win could put a dent in the Trojans’ bowl hopes.
On the other hand, the Buffs are ranked for the first time in over a decade. They also need to prove this isn’t a fluke and that the team is back to competing at a high level. Being expected to play well, and having more eyes on them, is a new experience for the current players on the squad.
Whichever mentality pushes its team the most will be a big factor in this game.
Kickoff is at 2 p.m. MST.
Contact CU Independent Copy Editor Jake Mauff at email@example.com.