Colorado/USC Preview – “T.I.P.S.”

I know I’ve used it before, but it seems more and more appropriate with each passing week …

Bill Murray, Stripes … “And then, depression set in …”.

As bad as Colorado has looked in the first half of the season, there is a very real potential that the second half of the season could be even worse.

First half of the season: Six teams; all six with losing records in 2011; five new head coaches.

Second half of the season: Six teams; five with winning records in 2011; one new head coach.

Of the remaining teams on the calendar, only Utah, which has already played Pac-12 South leading USC and Arizona State, has a losing record this fall (2-4). The Utes will come to Boulder the Friday after Thanksgiving, with the Buffs saying goodbye to its eight seniors. Depending on how things play out the next five weeks, the Utah game may be the only game on the schedule in which Colorado is listed as a favorite … or at least a single digit underdog.

Before CU can focus on trying to pull out a win over the Utes, however, the Buffs must run a gauntlet of teams which have already written a “W” next to Colorado on the schedule.

Up first is USC, a 41-point favorite for Saturday’s game (4:00 p.m. MT, Pac-12 Networks).

How will the matchup with the preseason No. 1 team play out?

Let’s find out … with this week’s “T.I.P.S.”

T – Talent

 Where to start? With the preseason Heisman trophy candidate at quarterback? With the nine returning starters from an offense which was ranked 16th in the nation in scoring in 2011?

Okay, let’s start there.

Matt Barkley was sixth in the balloting for the Heisman trophy last fall, and was the odds-on favorite for the award in August. While Barkley’s numbers for 2012 to date are impressive – 121-of-193 (62.7%), 1,475 yards, 16 touchdowns, six interceptions – they will not win the Heisman for Barkley. The USC quarterback has fallen off the radar a bit since the Trojans lost to Stanford, 21-14, in September. Still, if USC runs the table, Barkley could be back in the mix.

And it’s a safe bet that he is looking forward to facing the Buffs. Last season, Barkley threw a school record six touchdown passes in a 42-17 romp over Colorado in Boulder.

Barkley throws to arguably the best wide receiver tandem in college football. Junior Robert Woods (36 receptions, 360 yards, ten touchdowns) and sophomore Marqise Lee (54 receptions, 681 yards, seven touchdowns) are both Biletnikoff Award candidates. Said Stanford head coach David Shaw: “I’ve never seen a college team with two guys like this. There’s never been (a pair like them) in the modern era.”

Oh, and for those still smarting remembering the second half kickoff returned for a touchdown by Arizona State … Woods if fourth on USC’s all-time kickoff return list (and CU is dead last, 120th in the nation, in kickoff return defense).

If and when Barkley gets tired of throwing to Woods and Lee, Matt Barkley can hand the ball off to Silas Redd, who bolted from Penn State to become USC”s leading rusher. Redd, running behind a line which returns four starters from 2011, is averaging 5.6 yards per carry, and already has 570 yards rushing and six touchdowns.

Looking for a little help from the defensive side of the ball?

Well, seven defensive starters returned for USC this fall, including the top four tacklers from 2011. The defensive line was supposed to be a concern, with three starters lost, and the Trojans perilously thin on the depth chart. So, all USC has done in the first half of the season is hold opposing teams to 110.7 yards rushing per game (23rd in the nation). Junior college transfer Morgan Breslin is seventh nationally in sacks, and is third in the Pac-12 in tackles for loss.

So, to be successful against USC, the Buffs will have to throw the ball successfully.

Good luck with that.

The Trojans are only fair in pass defense (54th nationally), but the secondary has three returning starters, including 2011 All-American free safety T.J. McDonald. Junior Nickell Robey has tied a school record with three interceptions returned for touchdowns in his career.

Anything the Trojans are bad at?

Well, USC is 104th in the nation in fourth down conversion defense, allowing the opposition to convert 71.4% of fourth down attempts.

Which could be seen as something to look forward to … as Colorado will likely face a number of fourth down opportunities.

I – Intangibles

Sorry, I’ve got nothin’.

Even if Colorado played well in the first half (like Washington State did against Oregon), I just do not see a scenario wherein Colorado can stick with USC for a full sixty minutes.

P – Preparation / Schedule

The Buffs do get a slight nod here, just because the way the calendar lays out.

Colorado played last Thursday night at home, while USC was on the road in Seattle to face Washington on Saturday night. The Buffs were afforded a few extra days rest after the Arizona State game, and could sit at home Saturday night as the Trojans struggled for much of the night against the Huskies.

The few extra days off also seemed to have helped the Buffs on the injury report as well. Linebacker Doug Rippy, on the injury list for much of the season, is off the list this week, and should be a “full go” for USC. Senior safety Ray Polk, who has been out since the first half of the first game, is listed as “questionable”, but told cubuffs.com on Tuesday that he expects to play. Running back Christian Powell, who missed the Arizona State game with a deep thigh bruise, has been upgraded to “probable” for the USC game. And, perhaps the best news on the injury list … linebacker Brady Daigh, who was carted off of field on a stretcher last Thursday, is listed as only having a neck sprain, and is also “probable” for the Trojans.

The Buffs also get a bit of a boost from the back end of the two team’s schedules.

Both teams will be on the road next Saturday, with USC traveling to play Arizona, while Colorado will face Oregon in Eugene. USC finishes the 2012 season with four of its remaining six games at home, with the only other road game other than the game against the Wildcats coming against cross-town rival UCLA. So yes, the last time USC has to get on a plane to face a hostile crowd this fall comes next weekend.

The Trojans could be forgiven for looking past the Buffs to next week’s game. After all, the USC coaching staff replaced CU stickers on their game plans with Alabama stickers, trying to keep their players focued on the game in front of them. Apathy on the part of the Trojans can only help the Buffs this Saturday.

Colorado, meanwhile, would just as soon not look forward to its game against Oregon next weekend …

S – Statistics

As you would expect from a team which has been out-scored 248-125 this season, there are very few statistics in which Colorado looks decent.

The Buffs are 100th or worse nationally in almost every offensive statistic of value, including rushing offense, total offense, and scoring offense.

Meanwhile, the CU defense is 100th or worse in passing defense, total defense, and scoring defense.

Yuck. Yuck. And oh, by the way …Yuck.

That being said, USC fans have been less than thrilled with the output of the Trojan offense to date. The Trojans have the horses (no pun intended) to be a dominant offense, but are 62nd in rushing offense, 50th in passing offense, 57th in total offense, and 48th in scoring offense. Decent numbers – numbers Colorado fans would die for – but not exactly the overwhelming statistics which were expected of the nation’s preseason No. 1 team.

The USC defense, on the other hand, has been a pleasant surprise. As noted, above, the defensive line was thought to be the Achilles’ heel of the Trojans, but has instead been a force. USC is 22nd in the nation in sacks, while Colorado is 120th – dead last in the nation- in sacks allowed. That, my friends, is, a lethal combination.  

Yikes.

The last four trips to the state of California, Colorado has been blitzed by a total score of 214-34. For those scoring at home, that translates into an average loss – to Cal, Stanford UCLA, and Fresno State – of 53.5 to 8.5.

Sounds about right.

USC 53, Colorado 8.

 

4 Replies to “Colorado/USC Preview”

  1. I’m not about canning Coach Embree, but can anybody tell me why Greg Briwn still has a job??? He can’t defend a wet bag.

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