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USC vs. No. 19 Colorado Game Preview

The Colorado Buffaloes have never beaten the USC Trojans. Will USC be able to keep both its home win streak and series streak against Colorado alive?

Colorado v USC Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

The USC Trojans are finally ahead of the game coming off wins versus Washington Sate and Arizona, and a much needed bye week. The Trojans’ next test is an undefeated and ranked Colorado Buffaloes squad looking to snap USC’s home win streak and notch their first ever win against the Trojans. The last time the Buffaloes were the Pac-12 South frontrunner was back in 2016 when they came to the Coliseum ranked No. 21 and undefeated in conference. Sam Darnold’s Rose Bowl team defeated Colorado 21-17, which gave the Trojans a leg up in the Pac-12. Will JT Daniels’ young squad be able to do the same on Saturday?

Offense

For the past two games, USC’s offense has looked like the high powered, capable bunch that had them the talk of the offseason. The Trojans put up 39 points against WSU and 24 points against Arizona, it is a no longer a question if the offense has the ability to get into the end zone.

After suffering two losses with two dismal offensive performances, and a combined three interceptions, quarterback JT Daniels has bounced back putting up impressive true freshman numbers. Against WSU Daniels threw for 241 yards, three touchdowns, a completion percentage of 65.4, and no interceptions.

Against Arizona Daniels threw for 197 yards and while he had no touchdown passes, he did boast an increased completion percentage of 66.7 with no interceptions. Daniels also has not been afraid to go deep, and boy is it pretty when he does. Against WSU, 17 of his completions were for 20 yards or more and he also has thrown eight total passes of 40-plus yards per Joey Kaufman.

USC wide receiver and fellow true freshman Amon-Ra St. Brown leads the Trojans in receiving yards with 396 and two touchdowns. Michael Pittman Jr. and Tyler Vaughns have also seen improved numbers since the Trojans’ last two losses.

Through the last two games, Pittman Jr. has averaged 28 yards per catch and has shown the adjusted connection he and Daniels have made. Vaughns and his quarterback have also made their improved adjustments as the sure handed receiver was targeted nine times for 87 yards, one touchdown, and a couple clutch receptions through two games.

The USC run game had been struggling up until its matchup against Arizona, where Trojan running backs rushed for 253 yards and three touchdowns. This week however, USC will be facing a Colorado team that is currently ranked No. 46 in total defense and has the ability to completely shut down the run.

Though ASU running back Eno Benjamin rushed for 97 yards and two touchdowns in the first half against the Buffaloes last week, Colorado came out of halftime with defensive adjustments that held Benjamin to only 23 yards the rest of the game.

Defense

After allowing WSU to put up 36 points, and letting Arizona lead a near comeback win, the USC defense had some major adjustments to make during the bye week. After starting the season with a stellar pass defense, the Trojan secondary has allowed opponents to complete more than half of their passes per game at 56.1 percent. Against a quarterback like Steven Montez who looks to have finally hit his stride in his junior year, the USC pass defense must snap back to form.

Montez has 1,420 yards, 11 touchdowns, and just two interceptions on the season. He has also completed an impressive 75.2 percent of his passes.

If USC wants to stop the Buffaloes in their tracks, they cannot afford to let the high powered offense led by Montez and star receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. to run rampant in the Coliseum.

Through just five games, Shenault has recorded 51 receptions for 708 yards and six touchdowns. The explosive sophomore’s biggest play of the season came in Colorado’s season opener against rival Colorado State on an 89 yard touchdown reception.

Cornerback Iman Marshall and his very young backfield will have to limit Shenault’s targets and yards after catch if they want to limit Montez. With USC’s safety corps down to dire numbers, freshman standout Talanoa Hufanga will have to keep producing the solid performances he has had so far. Veteran Marvell Tell will also have to be on his A-game if they want to stop the Buffalos through the air.

USC’s run defense while having been in need of a tune up, seemed to get the job done against Arizona, limiting stars J.J. Taylor and Khalil Tate. Still, the Trojan rush defense has allowed an average of 163.2 yards per game which would be dangerous if allowed against Colorado.

Montez has shown that he has the ability to be a dual threat with 128 rush yards and three touchdowns on the season. Not only do the Trojans have to account for the Buffaloes’ quarterback, but they also have to limit senior running back Travon McMillian, who has 100 plus yards in every game but one this season.

Linebackers Porter Gustin and Cam Smith need to be the rallying force for this Trojan defense to stop the Buffaloes from stampeding. While USC’s pass rush definitely needs to improve, Colorado’s offensive line has allowed 10 sacks this season, which may give Gustin and defensive lineman Christian Rector some holes to attack through.

Key Notes

  • USC is a seven point favorite against undefeated No. 19 Colorado.
  • The winner of this game will sit at the top of the Pac-12 South standings.
  • Colorado has never beaten USC, the Buffaloes are 0-12 all-time.