Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to correct the spelling of Darren Parry’s name from “Perry” to “Parry.” His title has also been updated to include that he is the assistant sports editor.
The No. 8-ranked University of Southern California Trojans head to Boulder, Colorado on Saturday morning and are set to face off with the now 3-1 Colorado Buffaloes. This matchup will be an offensive masterclass as both USC and the University of Colorado Boulder are considered to have some of the most explosive and high-powered offenses in the nation.
Colorado opens this affair as 21.5 point underdogs. After last week’s thrashing in Oregon where the Buffs lost 42-6, this is a fair number. Deion Sanders and Lincoln Riley have quickly become some of the most well-admired coaches in the nation due to their charisma and success on and off the field.
“I have the utmost respect for their head coach. This man is a winner,” Deion Sanders said on USC head coach Riley.
USC and CU Boulder are set to rejuvenate a once great rivalry. One thing is for certain: no matter the spread or opponent, Sanders will have his team up and ready for the Trojans on Saturday morning.
Colorado has to do a better job of protecting their superstar quarterback Shedeur Sanders, as last week he was sacked seven times in their loss to Oregon. Colorado ranks second in the nation in sacks allowed at 23 — this has to be a focal point for the offense this week.
Look for the Buffs to get the ball out of Shedeur Sanders’ hand extremely fast this week and into the hands of their playmakers. Xavier Weaver was the only Colorado wideout to go over 45 yards at Oregon and finished the game with nine catches for 75 yards. Weaver understood that the Ducks’ defense would not allow the CU Boulder offense time to beat them over the top, so he worked the middle of the field trying to make plays with his legs.
The other Buffs’ wide receivers will look to do something similar this week against USC, as the Trojans too will look to put pressure on quarterback Shedeur Sanders and not allow him to sit in the pocket dissecting the defense. Colorado will also look to get the run game going which struggled last week at Oregon. The talent is there with players like Dylan Edwards, Alton McCaskill and Anthony Hankerson at running back, but they just haven’t been able to piece it all together. USC’s run defense is nothing too special, so look for Colorado to try and pound the ball early and often to open up Shedeur Sanders’s passing lanes.
The Colorado defense has to be better, it’s as simple as that. Through four weeks, the Buffs’ defense ranks 125th in the nation, giving up 475.8 yards a game to opposing offenses. This has been their Achilles heel to start the season as the defense has been lit up every week now, giving up a plethora of yards both on the ground and through the air.
The Buffs will most likely still be without Travis Hunter this week as he continues to recover from a lacerated liver sustained in the Colorado State game two weeks ago. Hunter truly does change the trajectory of this defense; he is arguably the best cornerback in the country. His presence alone makes quarterbacks rarely look his way, which in turn gives more support to other parts of the field. With Hunter still out, freshman 5-star cornerback Cormani McClain has been thrown into the fire, and the early results have been less than ideal.
“Study and prepare,” Deion Sanders said in a press conference earlier this week, referring to what McClain has to do to improve. “Be on time for meetings, show up to meetings. Understand the scheme. I check film time from each player so I can see who’s preparing, so if I don’t see that — you would be a fool to put somebody out there who’s not prepared. That goes for all our players.”
McClain has struggled to adjust to life in college football so far. He didn’t suit up for the first few games of the season, but with injuries in the defensive secondary, he has been forced to play. The 5-star 19-year-old just graduated from high school a few months ago, so there must be a grace period no matter the player. The transition from high school to college is a big one that many struggle with without ever even playing Division One football. McClain is a very special player, but Deion Sanders wants him to be the most mentally and physically prepared he can be before taking on a larger role in the defense. Look for McClain to prove his doubters wrong this weekend and have a big play or two against the Trojans.
From the other side(line): I interviewed assistant sports editor Darren Parry at The Daily Trojan, the opposing campus newspaper, to get his insight on Saturday’s matchup.
What are your thoughts on USC’s start to the year?
“It’s an expected start, the Trojans have played opponents with bad records to start this year. However, USC is not getting enough credit for getting a road win at Arizona State.”
What is USC’s biggest weakness and how can CU Boulder exploit it?
“USC’s defense for sure. They can exploit it with quick passes, misdirections and getting the ball out of Shedeur’s hands fast.”
Who is the biggest X-factor for USC in this matchup?
“MarShawn Lloyd [USC’s running back]. Lloyd had just 14 carries last week for 154 yards against ASU. Look for USC to establish the run game which would lead to opening up the passing game.”
What do you expect from the Trojans’ defense this Saturday?
“USC will struggle if Shedeur gets the ball out quickly. However, expect USC to get turnovers if Shedeur holds onto the ball too long looking to make plays.”
Final stat line from Caleb Williams?
“I think he goes 27/35 for 365 passing yards and 5 total touchdowns.”
Will USC cover the 21.5-point spread? Final score prediction?
“Yes, I do think they cover. Give me the Trojans winning 45-21.”
All-time, the Trojans are 16-0 against the Buffs but Colorado hopes to rewrite their fortunes and make history Saturday morning. The world will be watching, and when the lights are brightest, Deion Sanders tends to perform. Expect an offensive shootout at Folsom Field as Heisman hopefuls Caleb Williams and Shedeur Sanders have a duel for the ages. USC’s defense is not nearly as tight as Oregon’s. Look for CU Boulder to cover the spread and gain the respect of USC and others across the country.
Kickoff is at 10 a.m. MST at Folsom Field in Boulder, Colorado, and the game will stream live on FOX.
Contact CU Independent sports editor Griffin Dreifaldt at firstname.lastname@example.org