USC Trojans vs. Colorado Buffaloes: Complete Game Preview
USC travels to Boulder, Colo., for its final road game of the season against the Colorado Buffaloes. The Trojans look to continue the Coach Orgeron Victory Tour, and another conference victory would just add more to the discussion surrounding his future with USC.
As strong as newly-ranked No. 23 USC has looked, this game does have the makings of a trap: It's going to be bitterly cold in Boulder, and the Trojans don't have an impressive record in such conditions. The Buffs would love to derail USC's newfound success, and though it's not particularly likely, anything can happen.
While the Trojans slowly come down off an emotional high after beating the then-No. 4 Stanford Cardinal last week for the first time in five seasons, Colorado is experiencing one of its own. Under new head coach Mike MacIntyre, the Buffs, too, are coming off a big victory; they beat California last week and snapped a 14-game Pac-12 losing streak in the process.
Then again, USC and Colorado have only clashed seven times, and the Trojans have easily won all of them. This week looks to be no different.
Before we look at the match up, here are the vitals:
KICKOFF: 6:30 p.m. PT
PLACE: Folsom Field
TV: Pac-12 Network
Radio: ESPN 710 (it will also be carried by USCTrojans.com)
Spread: USC (-22) according to VegasInsider.com
USC Keys to Victory
In last year's game in the Coliseum, USC trounced the Buffs, 50-6. Though Matt Barkley and Robert Woods are gone, expect next week's game to go in a similar fashion.
USC's biggest opponent in this game will be the cold. The Trojans are 9-8-1 in cold-weather games, with their most recent lost coming this season to Notre Dame back in October. Aside from the frigid temperatures though, the Buffs don't pose much of a real threat to the Trojans.
For USC to keep the winning streak alive, it will go into Boulder with every intention of establishing its power run game quickly. Tre Madden played a bit on Saturday, and there's been no word yet on whether Silas Redd is good to go after missing the game against Stanford. Either way, we know Buck Allen is healthy and is looking to have another jaw-dropping performance this week.
Cody Kessler and the wide receivers have been very much in sync over the past few games, dialing up exciting play-action passes for long yards. When the Trojans aren't pounding it up the middle, expect them to keep Colorado reeling by mixing it up through the air at will.
Much like in other games this season, USC just needs to keep it simple and play its game to secure this win.
Colorado Keys to Victory
For Colorado to win this game, the football gods need to really, really look down on them favorably.
On average, the Buffs have only been able to put up 6.71 points on the Trojans, while USC has scored at will, averaging 32.86 points on the series. It doesn't look as if Colorado will fair any better this year.
However, new head coach Mike MacIntyre and his team are also coming off a big victory; Colorado beat California last week, snapping a 14-game Pac-12 losing streak. That momentum could fuel another strong performance from them this week.
Colorado's offensive line will need to find a way to keep Sefo Liufau on his feet against the formidable Trojan defensive line. If it can do that, as well as give Liufau time, Colorado could exploit USC's considerably weaker secondary. Though to be fair, the Trojan's last line of defense has stiffened up a bit in the past two games.
Defensively, the Buffs will want to fluster USC's O-line, which is prone to racking up careless false start and holding penalties. Not only that, but it is also pretty inconsistent. If Colorado can get to Cody Kessler or swallow up holes before the Trojans can attack, the Buffs can stay afloat in this game.
USC Players to Watch
The budding quarterback has hit 75 percent of his passes over the past three games, a strong indication that he is not just improving but flourishing since the coaching change. Against Stanford, he showed that he could lead the team like a man, so we can expect that he will perform in a similar manner against Colorado.
Since Orgeron set a place for Allen at the table, the young running back has been eating: He has seven touchdowns in three games and has dazzled by breaking off huge chunks of yards at a time. If Allen can have a performance against Colorado like he did against Cal, USC can put this one away early.
It's experienced some hiccups this season, but the Trojan defense has truly been remarkable in 2013. It ranks in the Top 25 nationally in total defense, rushing defense, scoring defense, pass efficiency defense, sacks, tackles for loss, interceptions, red-zone defense and third-down conversion defense.
Stanford was the first team to score a rushing touchdown on the Trojans since September, which is a testament to just how stout the Trojan D-line is. Not only is the defense preventing plays, but it is making them. Guys like defensive end Leonard Williams and safeties Dion Bailey and Su'a Cravens have shown a penchant for creating turnovers. This game against Colorado will be a great opportunity for these guys and others to boost their stats on the season.
Colorado Players to Watch
The freshman quarterback took over the offense midseason and has done pretty well for himself this season, despite Colorado's not-so-great record. He's completed 109 of 172 passes for 1350 yards, eight touchdowns and six interceptions. He can slang the rock, and he's got some pretty capable targets to hit. Liufau will need to create space for himself and try to punish USC's cornerbacks in one-on-one situations, in which the Trojans often give up lots of yards.
The Buffs have a heck of a wide receiver in Richardson, who has 1201 yards and nine touchdowns on the season. He is quick and can dash around defensive backs with ease, which will be a huge problem for USC. The Trojans are pretty weak at the cornerback position, and much to the frustrations of fans, they have a habit of playing the man instead of the ball. With that in mind, Richardson stands a real chance of being able to shred USC's secondary if Colorado can find away to get away from the pressure that will be put on by USC's D-line.
He's just a freshman, but this linebacker has already left his mark on his first season of college football. He's among the leading tacklers in the nation, and a strong performance against USC will only further boost his stock. Look for him to be a key player trying to disrupt the success of the Trojans offense.
What They Are Saying
Jon Woods of The Ralphie Report discusses what a Colorado win over USC would mean for the Buffs:
Now that the Colorado Buffaloes have gotten over the conference win hump they now turn their attention to the USC Trojans for their home finale. While unlikely, with wins over USC and Utah in their final two contests the Buffs would become bowl eligible for the first time since the 2007 season.
Gary Klein of the LA Times notes USC is looking to continue its hot streak in Pac-12 play:
USC beats Colorado 48-3
With the success USC has been experiencing lately, the Trojans look like they can contend with and beat anybody. Orgeron and his team are on a mission to play in a decent bowl game, and the Buffs will not derail that mission. Everything has gelled so perfectly under Orgeron; both the offense and defense are playing at their respective bests, and USC is relevant once again. The players and Orgeron said they would "run through a wall" for each other, and last week's game against Stanford proved that.
When the dust from Ralphie's hooves settles and (hopefully) before the snow flurries begin to fall, USC will head back to the warm shores of Southern California, and it will do so with the win.