This season USC has looked like a polar opposite team when they’re on the road. The Trojans are currently 0-3 on road. This week they’ll look to shed that reputation for now as they face Colorado in Boulder for a Friday night Pac-12 showdown. USC currently controls their own destiny in the Pac-12 South and each game turns into a huge one with Utah right on their heels waiting for the Trojans to trip up. The Trojans are also going into this game with some key starters missing after suffering injuries in their blowout win over Arizona. USC will need to be on their game if they want to walkout of Boulder with their first road win of the season.
Embrace the Air Raid
For the second consecutive time, USC will face one of the conference’s worst pass defense. Colorado is dead last in the Pac-12 in pass defense giving up 316 yards per game. Last week, the Buffaloes gave up 369 yards and 4 touchdowns to Washington State quarterback Anthony Gordon in their 41-10 loss to the Cougars. With the talent the Trojans have at wide receiver and the way Kedon Slovis has been playing at Quarterback, this is a prime shot at waking up their “air raid” scheme. Slovis has done an outstanding job at taking care of the ball and batting through some rough moments. He could see similar success against Colorado. The Buffaloes secondary will have a tough time defending Amon-Ra St. Brown, Tyler Vaughns, and Michael Pittman Jr. however, this depends on what offensive coordinator Graham Harrell will call or draw up. Also can we please get some moving around for the receivers to create matchup problems and utilize Velus Jones Jr. properly?
Offense start on time and finish drives
The USC offense has endured too many slow starts and unfinished drives the past three games. It has turned into a real problem that needs to be addressed. Last week USC struggled to gain a single first down until their 5th or 6th drive of the game, if that. That might be a little extra, but still it’s a problem. They will get a Buffaloes defense that gives up 50% of 3rd down conversions. Going on the road, the Trojans offense must arrive on time and put up points early. Especially if the defense is doing its job. Allow Colorado to stay in the game and gain confidence could mean a much tougher game and possibly a fourth consecutive road loss.
Avoid looking ahead
What makes this game so tricky is that the following week will be a much bigger game. The No. 11 Oregon Ducks travel to Los Angeles to face USC in a primetime game which could possibly be a Pac-12 Championship Game preview. They must handle business this Friday before they start the hype for that game. You could say this could be another “trap game” for the Trojans. The last time we mentioned that, USC was defeated by BYU the week before facing Utah. On paper USC should handle business, but with all the injuries the Trojans are facing right now, anything could happen.
Backups must step up again.
USC will need their depth to show up once again. Last week, the Trojans saw six players leave the game with injuries. Despite that, USC got the most of the players who replaced the injured. Drake Jackson, Talanoa Hufanga, possibly Christain Rector, Stephen Carr, Vavae Malepeai, and Markese Stepp are all out for Fridays game against the Buffaloes. They will need their backups to repeat last week’s performance once again to walk out of Boulder with the win.
Contain and pressure the Steven Montez
Last time the Trojans traveled to Boulder, Quarterback Steven Montez threw for over 300 yards and gave them fits with his scrambling ability. Last year they had much better success containing him, sacking him four times and only holding him to 120 yards passing. USC had trouble with mobile quarterbacks this season, but last weekend they managed to fluster Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate to the point where he was benched in the second half. The Trojans are also third in the Pac-12 in sacks.
Locate Laviska Shenault Jr.
Colorado wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. is a playmaker and is the most dangerous player on the field. While the junior wide receiver have been banged up this season, he can still change the game with one play. Colorado will look to line him up in multiple spots on the field just to get him the ball. USC will have to locate him at all times and contain the playmaking wide receiver. Whether he’s in the backfield, at slot, the outside, or as a wildcat, the Trojans must contain Shenault and make sure they contain him no matter where he is.