The Trojans will play a late-night game against an undefeated Colorado team that gives up just 18.4 points per game, which ranks 21st in the country. However, Colorado’s defense has been pretty mediocre when one considers that Colorado has only beaten one team with a winning record, Arizona State, who was 3-2 at the time. Colorado ranks 46th in yards allowed per game and has forced only seven turnovers, which is pretty unimpressive. Colorado is ranked 50th by ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI) and their highest game score is just 75. However, they are ranked 14th in strength of schedule and have the opportunity to prove themselves this week. Here’s how USC’s offense can be successful in knocking off the last undefeated team in the PAC-12:
1. Establish the run game
The team that had the most success offensively against Colorado was Nebraska, who scored 28 points despite three turnovers, a missed field goal, a dropped touchdown pass, 11 penalties, and a walk-on quarterback playing the 4th quarter. This is because Nebraska ran for 329 yards, averaging 6.1 yards per carry. USC’s run game was effective against Arizona, but it struggled against Texas and Washington State and underperformed against UNLV and Stanford. Getting the run game going the same way they did before the bye week will be key, as well as getting all three running backs in a rhythm.
Aca’Cedric Ware followed up a negative five-yard output against Washington State by taking 21 carries for 173 yards and two touchdowns against Arizona. Meanwhile, Vavae Malepeai took 13 carries for 78 yards and two touchdowns against Washington State but had just eight yards against Arizona. Part of this is due to the difference in workload, as Ware received just one carry against Washington State while Malepeai had just three carries against Arizona, so the running back rotation continues to be a question. The only consistent running back recently has been Stephen Carr, who since getting healthy ran for 77 yards and 80 yards in the last two games.
2. Fewer mistakes
Nebraska lost to Colorado because of they made too many mistakes and unforced errors. USC nearly lost to Arizona last week because of they made an unbelievable number of mistakes of their own. Despite running all over Arizona, USC fumbled the ball three times and had a whopping 18 penalties for 169 yards. Every week USC seems to have a new problem offensively, and last week was simply a lack of concentration. They were able to overcome their mistakes against a weak Arizona team, but it will not be the case with a much better Colorado team.
3. Utilize all their weapons
A week after wide receivers Tyler Vaughns, Michael Pittman Jr., and Amon-Ra St. Brown dominated Washington State with 11 receptions for 174 yards and three touchdowns while drawing numerous penalties in the secondary, against Arizona they had eight combined catches for 97 yards and zero touchdowns. All three wide receivers are good enough to star on Sundays in the near future, but the current state of the offense has prevented them from blossoming into stars now at the college level. They need to be given more consistent opportunities to contribute, but a balance needs to be struck with the running game.