This Saturday's matchup between the Colorado Buffaloes (1-5, 1-2 Pac-12) and the No. 10 USC Trojans (5-1, 3-1 Pac-12) won't garner much national excitement, but it's still a huge game in the Pac-12 Conference landscape.
Matt Barkley & Co. have won three-consecutive games since being upset by Stanford in Week 3, and they need to keep on rolling against the Buffs.
For Colorado, it's a matter of desperation. CU is running out of time for a turnaround, sitting just two losses away from postseason elimination. And with a schedule that has bouts with Oregon and Stanford yet to come, that's looking more like a certainty with each passing day.
USC needs to win decisively in this one, putting forth a complete game effort on both sides of the ball to impress the pollsters. If the Trojans struggle to put the Buffs away, their BCS title hopes will take another massive hit.
When: Saturday, Oct. 20 at 6:00 p.m. ET
Where: L.A. Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, CA
Watch: Pac-12 Network
Live Stream: Pac-12.com
Listen: Free Football Radio
Betting Line: USC -40.5 (via OddsShark.com)
Will the Trojans cover the spread?
The odds makers have given this game an enormous spread, one that I don't think an inconsistent USC offense will be able to cover. Even against a CU squad that ranks last in the Pac-12 in almost every defensive statistic, it's hard to imagine the Trojans winning by six touchdowns.
Injury Report (via USA Today)
FB Christian Powell, Probable (Hip)
LB Paul Vigo, QST
DB Ray Polk, QST (Ankle)
WR Paul Richardson, OUT (Knee)
QB Matt Barkley, Probable (Arm)
CB Kevin Seymour, QST
TE Randall Telfer, QST (Ankle)
TE Christian Thomas, QST (Hip)
CB Brian Baucham, OUT (Lung)
BCS/Top 25 Implications
USC is currently ranked No. 10 in the BCS standings and No. 11 in the AP poll, and the result of this game probably won't change much. If the Trojans win big, they could sneak up a spot or two. But if their effort is unconvincing, they could fall even further out of grace.
Colorado is nowhere near the Top 25 and won't even sniff the rankings for the rest of the season. But if the Buffs somehow muster the epic upset, it would mean seismic changes in the Pac-12 power structure. Needless to say, USC would plummet out of national relevance entirely with a loss to CU.
Colorado Player to Watch: Nick Kasa, TE
Tight end Nick Kasa has emerged as one of the Buffs' biggest scoring threats and figures to give Colorado it's best chance at moving the ball downfield on Saturday.
Kasa has hauled in 11 receptions for 239 yards so far this season, and has become QB Jordan Webb's favorite target in recent weeks. The 6'6", 260-pound senior has caught a touchdown pass in three-straight games, and will look to make it four in a row against the Trojans.
If Kasa can find open space to work with, Colorado might have a prayer in the passing game. But if the Trojans can fly around and prevent Kasa from running the deep post, CU punter Darragh O'Neill will probably have a mammoth day.
USC Player to Watch: Matt Barkley, QB
It may seem unoriginal to pick Matt Barkley as the player to watch for USC, but that's just the reality of the situation. The senior signal caller is the most important Trojan on the field, and will be called upon to lead the charge against the Buffs.
So far in 2012, Barkley has been solid yet unspectacular, passing for 1,475 yards and 16 TDs in six games. He has also thrown six interceptions, and has eclipsed the 300-yard mark only twice.
Barkley will have a good chance to break the triple-century against Colorado, which ranks dead-last in the conference in pass defense. If Barkley fails to pick the Buffs apart, his Heisman hopes will be nothing more than daydreams next week.
Prediction: USC 38, Colorado 13
The USC offense will score early and often, and Matt Barkley will finally put up numbers worthy of his insane preseason hype. Robert Woods and Marqise Lee will shred a depleted Colorado secondary, while Silas Redd powers his way through the Buffs' overmatched front line.
On defense, the Trojans will continue to play at a high level, forcing multiple Colorado turnovers and terrorizing QB Jordan Webb.
With the decisive victory, USC will secure a single-digit ranking in front of its name, and continue its slow trek back into the BCS conversation. On the other hand, Colorado will be on the verge of collapse, faced with the daunting task of winning five-straight games just to make a bowl.