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CU@Game CU At The Game: No. 21 CU at USC – A Preview

Discussion in 'CU Buffs Newsroom' started by RSSBot, Oct 5, 2016.

  1. RSSBot

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    Jul 8, 2005
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    No. 21 Colorado at USC – A Preview … “T.I.P.S.” for CU’s attempt to break a ten-game losing streak

    Okay, raise your hand if you predicted six weeks ago that CU would be ranked heading into their road trip against USC, and that the Trojans would be unranked?


    This past July, when league beat reporters attended the Pac-12 Media Days in Los Angeles, they were asked to predict the Pac-12 standings this fall. USC came in a close second in the Pac-12 South voting, coming in just behind UCLA (180-173). Colorado, meanwhile, was picked to finish last (again), with 63 total votes.

    When the preseason Associated Press poll came out, the Trojans were penciled in as the No. 20 team in the nation (No. 17 in the USA Today coaches poll). Colorado, as has been the case for over a decade, was nowhere to be seen.

    Fast forward to October, where the Pac-12 South leading Buffs are ranked No. 21 in the AP poll (No. 23 in the USA Today poll), and USC, in fifth place in the Pac-12 South, is barely on the national radar (No. 43 in USA Today poll … nowhere to be found in the AP poll listing).

    Colorado, which has never beaten USC in ten attempts, is listed as a 5.0-point underdog to the Trojans.

    Is this the week that Colorado will be brought down to reality by a resurgent USC squad? Or will the Buffs’ quixotic run to national prominence continue with yet another “1-0” week?

    We’ll see …

    Here are this week’s “T.I.P.S.” for No. 21 Colorado at USC … Saturday, 2:00 p.m. MT, Pac-12 Networks

    T – Talent

    Where to start?

    After a 1-3 start, USC fans are once again expressing confidence in their program, and freshman quarterback Sam Darnold has had a great deal to do with that. Darnold took over for the previous starter, Max Browne, two games ago, and has preformed well. Against Utah and Arizona State, Darnold went 41-of-59 (.695) for 605 yards, with three touchdowns and no interceptions.

    Darnold’s favorite target is All-American candidate JuJu Smith-Schuster, who has collected all three of Darnold’s touchdown passes the past two games (all three coming during last week’s 41-20 rout of Arizona State). Smith-Schuster already has 26 catches for 320 yards and five touchdowns on the season. A up-and-coming threat is Deontay Burnett, who had seven catches for 93 yards against the Sun Devils.

    The rushing attack is led by senior Justin Davis, who had 902 yards rushing last year, and has back-to-back 100-yard games the past two weeks.

    Overall, however, the USC offense has been a disappointment. The Trojans are 10th in the Pac-12 (85th nationally) in total offense (391.6 ypg.), and 10th in the Pac-12 (88th nationally) in scoring offense (25.8 ppg.).

    The USC defense had its best game of the season against Arizona State, holding the Sun Devils out of the end zone until after the Trojans had built a 41-6 lead.

    One significant reason for the rout of the Sun Devils – an improved pass rush. After failing to touch either Ryan Burns of Stanford or Troy Williams of Utah, USC decided that getting pressure on the quarterback was a priority, then did just that.

    USC hit ASU quarterbacks with different looks and blitzes. Before he left the game with an injury, Arizona State quarterback Manny Wilkins was sacked three times, hurried twice, and was flustered by the Trojan defense.

    Even taking into account the ugly numbers from the lopsided 52-6 to Alabama in the opener, USC is in the top half of the Pac-12 in total defense (376.2 ypg. – 53rd nationally) and in scoring defense (27.4 ppg. – 64th nationally).

    And, oh yeah, once again Buff fans must be wary of special teams play.

    USC has the nation’s eighth-best kickoff returner in Adoree Jackson (31.1 yards per return), while the Trojans as a team lead the entire nation in punt returns, averaging 25.29 yards per return (Colorado, meanwhile, is 127th – second to last in the country – in net punting).

    I – Intangibles

    Against Oregon State, CU wide receiver Shay Fields tied a school record with three touchdown receptions – all in the first half.

    If he had his way, Fields would love to have a repeat performance this weekend against USC. Fields, a four-star prospect from Bellflower, California, was at one time committed to USC. Amidst a coaching change at USC, however, the Trojans cooled on Fields, who wound up signing with Colorado.

    When asked if the USC game was a special game for him, Fields was diplomatic. “Not really,” he said. “It’s just a normal game. We just have to be ready, be focused. We’ll have good days of practice this week and come out ready to play on Saturday.”

    Linebacker Rick Gamboa, from Slymar, California, also refused to take the bait of a revenge motive. “Maybe during my freshman year I was more motivated to play against USC just because I was from there”, said Gamboa. “At this point it’s not really about that, it’s about going out there and no matter who we play just wanting to get a win and playing great defense.”

    While the “go 1-0 this week” and “Colorado is the most important team on the schedule” mantras have worked well so far this year, the Buffs can be forgiven if they are just a little more motivated this week.

    “How many times has Colorado played USC? 10. How many times have they beat them? Zero”, said Mike MacIntyre. “So, we have to earn our respect, there’s no doubt about it. It’s fun to do something that’s never been done. Hopefully we can do that. I think you always need a little bit of a chip on your shoulder in whatever you do. I think it gives you an added advantage.”

    Perhaps it will …

    P – Preparation/Schedule

    In all of the preseason magazines, it was declared that USC would face the nation’s toughest schedule this fall. Out of the 12 teams the Trojans would face in 2016, it was noted, 11 played in bowl games in 2015.

    The lone exception? The one team USC had on the schedule which didn’t participate in a bowl game in 2015?


    Now, instead of becoming the easiest out in the Trojans’ schedule, the Buffs present a real test. Colorado will be the fourth ranked team USC has faced in six games, with the Trojans losing to the other three ranked teams they have faced so far.

    The other three losses – to No. 1 Alabama, No. 7 Stanford, and No. 24 Utah – were all on the road (the Alabama game played in Arlington, Texas). While a tough set of contests, USC’s first opponents (with the exception of Alabama) have not proven to be world-beaters. Stanford, which beat USC 27-10, is now coming off a 44-6 loss to Washington. Utah, which beat USC 31-27, is now coming off a 28-23 loss to Cal.

    It is also true that CU’s early season opponents have not done exceptionally well (with the exception of Michigan). Colorado State is 2-3, and was just humbled at home, 38-17, by Wyoming. Oregon had its (multi-colored) hat handed to it, 51-33, by Washington State. And Oregon State … well, the Beavers are where the Buffs were a few years ago, when staying competitive into the second half was the only realistic hope.

    So, which team is better?

    The 2-3 Trojans, who seemingly righted their ship with a dominating win over previously unbeaten Arizona State?

    Or the 4-1 Buffs, who have to date withstood every challenge, but are still 0-10 all-time against USC, and who have a 4-25 record in Pac-12 play under Mike MacIntyre?

    S – Statistics

    We’re almost halfway through the season, and have two games in Pac-12 play in the books.

    If Colorado was destined to return to earth after posting some other-worldly statistics to open the season, it hasn’t happened yet.

    A total of 14 major statistical categories tracked are by the Pac-12 in their weekly press release. There, the league charts whether any of the conference’s teams are ranked in the top 25 nationally.

    Out of those 14 categories, Colorado finds itself ranked in the top 25 in eight (second only in the conference to Washington, which is ranked in nine of the 14 categories), including:

    — Passing offense – 312.6 ypg. … 19th nationally

    — Total offense – 531.2 ypg. … 9th nationally

    — Scoring offense – 43.2 ppg. … 16th nationally

    — Passing yards allowed – 150.4 ypg. … 9th nationally

    — Total defense – 290.4 ypg. … 13th nationally

    — Turnover margin – +.80 … 23rd nationally

    Meanwhile, in those same 14 categories, USC is ranked in the top 25 nationally in only two (though they could play a significant role in Saturday’s game):

    — Punt returns – 25.29 ypr. … 1st nationally

    — Kickoff returns – 25.41 ypr. … 23rd nationally

    If you are only looking at the stats, it’s hard not to like the Buffs’ chances.

    Prediction … When it comes to which quarterback will start against USC, the Colorado coaches are almost in a no-win situation.

    If Liufau plays, and the Buffs lose, it will be because the Buff coaches failed to go with the hot hand.

    If Montez plays, and the Buffs lose, it will be because the Buff coaches failed to go with the experienced leader.

    “We’re going to play it out through the week, then see how healthy Sefo [Liufau] is,” said Mike MacIntyre. “It’ll really be a game-time decision again on how we do it all. Sefo’s health is the biggest key in it.”

    This just in … Colorado is going to lose again this season. When the Buffs do lose, the quarterback decision will be (over) scrutinized.

    In case you missed it, Colorado is swimming upstream against history this weekend. The Buffs are 0-10 all-time against USC, with a 2-19-1 all-time record in games played in the state of California (last win v. UCLA in 2002). Mike MacIntyre is sitting on a 14-28 record at Colorado, with a 3-15 record in road games.

    Yet – at least so far – the 2016 season has been one where the Buffs are oblivious to history.

    This could be the season the Buffs break the streak against the Trojans. This could be the season when Colorado – finally – posts a “W” against USC. After all, this year’s team is better than last year’s, and the 2015 Buffs almost beat USC, falling 27-24 after building a 17-3 first half advantage. Had Sefo Liufau not been injured in that game … who knows?

    Since that game in Boulder last November, USC has gone 3-6. The Trojans of late haven’t been the Trojans of old …

    Perhaps I am just too beaten down by ten years of losing. Perhaps it is the decal on the opposing helmet that has my view skewed. Perhaps it’s because USC looked so good against Arizona State last weekend.

    The Buffs have done everything any reasonable fan could have asked from them through the first five games of the season.

    It will be hard to meet the Buff Nation’s new found expectations every week … I’m going with my head instead of my heart. A special teams breakdown breaks the Buff Nation’s hearts:

    USC 27, Colorado 24.


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