After getting through arguably the roughest stretch of the season, the USC Trojans enter the back half of their schedule with a key Pac-12 South home game against the Colorado Buffaloes. The Buffaloes (5-0, 2-0) currently lead the division by one game, making Saturday’s contest even more critical for the Trojans to win. Here are five bold predictions to watch for when USC returns to the Coliseum Saturday.
1.) USC wins by double digits
If you’re a USC bettor, you haven’t been proud to boast about your bet. The Trojans are currently a dreadful 1-4 against the spread this season and had it not been for a missed PAT by Arizona’s kicker in the final minute, they would still be winless against the number. However, this spot could be a good opportunity to lay the points with the Trojans. For one, the fact that USC is favorite by a touchdown against an undefeated team that is currently at the top of its division implies that the wise guys in Las Vegas see something that we don’t. It might going out on a limb, but USC feels like the right play, especially considering that it’s coming off a bye week. On top of that, coach Clay Helton has yet to lose a game at home and I don’t see that changing this week.
2.) USC’s defense records two turnovers
Through five games, defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast’s unit has only recorded three turnovers. It’s a concerning number to say the least, although it could have easily been four had cornerback Iman Marshall not been called for a pass interference when he intercepted Khalil Tate late in the fourth quarter. That would have been USC’s second interception on the season. Senior safety Marvel Tell III is the only Trojan currently with an interception to his name. There’s no question that Pendergast & Co. made it a priority to come up with a scheme to set up his defense to come up with more turnovers against Colorado. The Buffaloes have lost four turnovers to opponents this season so there is opportunity for the Trojans’ defense.
3.) Aca’Cedric Ware runs for over 100 yards, again
This season has kind of been a roller-coaster esque year for senior running back Aca’Cedric Ware. He’s had a pair of games where he’s rushed over the century mark and when he has, the Trojans have essentially cruised to victory. USC’s offensive coaching staff was criticized for not running the ball enough against Stanford and Texas. Helton & Co. certainly heeded towards the suggestions, running the ball a total of 47 times against Arizona and only forcing quarterback JT Daniels to make 24 throws. While the Trojans have other capable options in Stephen Carr and Vavae Malepeai, Ware has outworked the other two backs and chances are good that offensive coordinator Tee Martin will allow the senior to handle the workload Saturday.
4.) USC’s defense limits Colorado wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. to zero touchdowns
Even though he’s a sophomore, Colorado wideout Laviska Shenault Jr. is lighting up the box score for the Buffaloes. The 6-foot-2 receiver is clearly quarterback Steven Montez’s favorite option and has found the end zone in each of the Buffaloes’ five games this season. He leads all Colorado receivers with six touchdowns and 708 receiving yards on 51 receptions. There’s no question that Marshall and cornerback Olaijah Griffin will have their hands full trying to stop Shenault Jr. but considering that Pendergast had almost two weeks to prepare for this matchup, he’s had plenty of time to dial up something to blanket the playmaker and force Colorado’s other receivers to make plays.
5.) USC surrenders less than 80 penalty yards
If you’ve been watching USC this season, you know that game officials have not been shy from throwing a flag on the Trojans. It’s been so bad that even Marshall called Pac-12 officials ‘terrible’ after the victory over Arizona. The Trojans are one of the worst teams in the nation in penalty yards per game. USC is ranked No. 122 in that category, averaging 85.20 yards on penalties per game. If that continues against Colorado, it could wind up being a long day for Helton & Co. But considering the Trojans are coming off a bye week, one would assume that cleaning up the penalties was a major point of emphasis. The Trojans can’t afford to allow over 85 yards through penalties to a team like Colorado with a playmaker like Montez.