Colorado v. No. 15 USC: “T.I.P.S.” as Buffs try for first-ever win against the Trojans

 

0-11.

It’s not as if Colorado is lacking in negative histories against a few conference opponents.

Against Nebraska, the Buffs are 18-49-2 all-time.

Against Oklahoma, the Buffs are 17-40-2 all-time.

But against those former Big 7, Big 8 and Big 12 opponents, the Buff Nation at least has some glorious victories to savor.

Against USC, there’s nothing. Colorado is 0-11 against USC all-time.

Adding insult to injury, eight of those 11 losses to the Trojans have been since 2000, so most of those games are still fresh in the memories of the Buff Nation.

Colorado is 0-6 against USC since joining the Pac-12; 0-5 all-time in games played in Boulder.

The Trojans are two-touchdown favorites over the Buffs this time around, and the statistics favor yet another USC blowout.

We’ll see how badly the 21 CU seniors, playing their last game at Folsom, want to go out with a signature win …

 

This week’s “T.I.P.S.” for CU v. No. 15 USC … Sat., 2:00 p.m. MT, Fox

 

T – Talent 

In many of the preseason college football magazines, USC quarterback Sam Darnold (No. 14) was prominently featured.

All-Pac-12 performer? Check. All-American candidate? Check. A leading candidate for the Heisman trophy? Check. Potential No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NFL draft?

Check and check.

Darnold hasn’t had a season for the ages, but he hasn’t exactly fared poorly, either. The sophomore has completed 63.6% of his passes for 2,869 yards and 22 touchdowns. (Steven Montez: 62.3%; 2,404, 16 touchdowns; seven interceptions).

“Last five games have been who he is”, said USC coach Clay Helton of Darnold. “He’s had 13 touchdowns and three interceptions in those last games,” he said. “I take that last game versus Arizona where two backs touched the ball 45 times and Sam throws 26 throws but he goes 77 percent on throws, that’s a mark of a quarterback that is making good decisions, taking what the defense gives him and being highly accurate on the field.

“In the last 19 games, we’re like 17-2 and he’s a huge factor in that, he’s the reason we’re so successful.”

The knock on Darnold is that he has also thrown 11 interceptions this fall, and he had erratic moments in USC’s two losses.

The Buffs can only hope that Darnold has an off-day this Saturday.

When he is on, Darnold looks for wide receiver Deontay Burnett (No. 80), who has 832 receiving yards and eight touchdowns this season (Shay Fields: 619 yards; four touchdowns)

If the Buffs can find a way to keep Darnold off-balance (not likely, as CU is 96th in the nation in sacks), then the Trojans will happily turn to its running game. This fall, the Colorado defense has found a way of turning mediocre rushing attacks into unstoppable tsunamis … and, this just in … USC does not have a mediocre rushing attack.

Ronald Jones II (No. 25) will be called upon to do much of the damage. The junior has rushed for over 1,000 yards this season, and went for 194 yards and three touchdowns against Arizona last weekend. “He’s an excellent, excellent back,” Mike MacIntyre said. “He’s a pro back for sure.” (Phillip Lindsay: 1,334 yards; 12 touchdowns).

Key on Jones? Fine. Then the Trojans will throw Aca’Cedric Ware (No. 28) at you. Little used before the Arizona game, Ware had 14 carries for 122 yards and a touchdown against the Wildcats.

Overall, the USC offense is averaging over 200 yards per game passing, and over 200 yards per game rushing. The Trojans are averaging 35.2 points per game, 29th in the nation.

The Trojans are going to score on the CU defense. The only question is whether the Buffs can force enough mistakes and turnovers to make a difference.

On defense, USC is good, but not great.

The Trojans are 64th in the nation in total defense, giving up almost 400 yards (393.2) per game, and is 69th in scoring defense (26.7 points per game … right behind Colorado, which is surrendering 26.6 points per game).

The Buffs’ offense will have to have almost a perfect game to score enough points to stay with the Trojans.

Possible. Not likely … but possible.

 

I – Intangibles

Senior Day.

For 21 Buffs, this Saturday will be the last opportunity to run out behind Ralphie, and play before a Folsom Field crowd.

As of Tuesday morning, just under 48,000 tickets had been sold for Saturday’s game. While a number of those in attendance will be USC faithful cheering on the visitors, the vast majority will be pulling for the team wearing all black uniforms.

“They’ve done a tremendous amount for the university, for our program, for the guys in our program,” head coach Mike MacIntyre said Tuesday of his senior class. “I can’t really put a value mark on it, because of what all they’ve done. When they came here it was a very hard time and a very, very low point in the program and they’ve made us extremely competitive all the time. … People were telling them, ‘Don’t come here.’ They’ve brought the pride back. What they’ve done is made us extremely competitive and be able to keep moving on from there and be a competitive program.”

While any number of Buff fans have written off the remainder of the season, and expect a 5-7 finish from the 2017 Buffs, the players have not given up on their goals of a winning season and a bowl invitation. They know that a win would likely secure a second consecutive bowl bid, something which hasn’t happened in Boulder since the 2004-05 seasons.

“We’ve kind of got our backs up against the wall right now,” sixth-year senior offensive lineman Jeromy Irwin said. “That’s probably our biggest incentive. We’re going to have to go out there like a trapped animal trying to get out of this situation. It’s Senior Day, my last game at Folsom — all those things. I think everybody wants to get this back on the right track. We just want to get the win.”

Wanting it can carry a team only so far, however.

They have to go out and take it.

 

P – Preparation / Schedule

Unlike the Buffs, the USC Trojans really don’t have much to play for this weekend.

True, USC remains, at least theoretically, in the hunt for a College Football Playoff berth, moving up to No. 11 this week. Wins against Colorado and UCLA to close out the regular season, however, won’t move the bar all that much in the eyes of the Playoff committee. Even a win over a highly ranked Washington team in the Pac-12 title game would likely only mean a Fiesta Bowl bid (as the Rose Bowl is one of the sites for the CFP semi-finals this year).

To get to the title game as Pac-12 South champions, USC needs only to beat Colorado this weekend on the road, or UCLA next weekend at home. The Trojans could even, under the right circumstances, lose both games and still finish as the Pac-12 South representative in the Pac-12 championship game.

Long story short … a win over the Buffs will clinch the Pac-12 South title for USC, but the Trojans are likely to win the division, even with a loss in Boulder.

The Buffs, meanwhile, should play with a great deal more urgency.

A loss would not condemn the Buffs to a losing season, but it would give Colorado a 5-6 overall record, under .500 for the first time in 2017. It would also mean that the Buffs would have to defeat Utah in the season finale (with the Utes potentially having to fight for a sixth win as well. Utah is currently 5-4, but must play Washington State and Washington before facing Colorado).

Neither team has had a bye this fall. Both teams have lost players to injury.

USC knows it is going to a bowl game. The Trojan players are just playing for a higher tier bowl, and will, in a few weeks, be playing for a Pac-12 title. There are many exciting moments ahead for this year’s team.

Colorado doesn’t know if it is going to a bowl game. The Buff players are just playing for the right to play in a bowl – any bowl – with a long off-season just a few weeks away if they can’t find a way to post at least one more victory.

If emotion is all it takes … advantage, Colorado.

 

S – Statistics

— Phillip Lindsay is No. 7 in the nation in rushing, averaging 133.4 yards per game; USC’s Ronald Jones II is 14th in the nation, averaging 111.0 yards per game;

—  Lindsay has 952 receiving yards, 17 shy of Rodney Stewart’s 969 for the most by a running back in CU history. If Lindsay picks up 48 more receiving yards in his last two games, he will become the first running back at Colorado to post 1,000 career yards receiving;

— After his 20-of-26 performance for 311 yards/two touchdowns vs. Arizona, USC quarterback Sam Darnold has thrown for at least 200 yards in 19 games and at least three touchdown passes in a game 10 times;

— Junior wide receiver Deontay Burnett leads the Pac-12 with 63 receptions (6.3 receptions per game) and fourth with 83.2 receiving yards per game;

— Colorado needs to jump out on USC early. The Buffs have out-scored opponents, 76-45, in the first quarter so far this season … but has been out-scored in every other quarter (72-78 in the second; 57-62 in the third; and 75-81 in the fourth);

— USC is only 12-11-1 in “cold weather” games (defined as where the cold temperature had such an impact on the game that it was mentioned in the media’s recaps). The last time USC played a “cold weather” game was the 2016 Utah road game (a 31-27 loss when it was 45 degrees at kickoff) … Note … The current forecast high for Boulder Saturday is 51-degrees.

 

Bottom Line … At the conclusion of Saturday afternoon’s game, the “fans behind the bench” will present the annual Buffalo Heart Award. While there are a number of viable candidates among the 21 seniors – sixth-year senior offensive lineman Jeromy Irwin; record-setting wide receiver Shay Fields; defensive stalwarts Derek McCartney, Ryan Moeller and Afolabi Laguda – it would be a major upset if the award doesn’t go to senior running back Phillip Lindsay.

Not only has Phillip Lindsay had the best season of any Buff senior.

Not only has Phillip Lindsay had the best career of any Buff senior.

Phillip Lindsay is the quintessential Buff. He bleeds black-and-gold, and has from the first minute he stepped onto the CU campus. He is a leader, a warrior, and will someday become a member of the CU athletic Hall of Fame.

But will he go out a winner?

That is a huge ask.

The Colorado defense has been gashed by teams who don’t run the ball particularly well.

USC runs the ball well.

I can see the Buffs sticking with the Trojans for awhile (the last time the two teams played in Boulder, in 2015, the Buffs not only led, but may very well have won if Sefo Liufau hadn’t been injured).

Emotion will only take the Buffs so far, however.

USC put up 48 points against Arizona State two weeks ago, then 49 points against Arizona last weekend.

Those numbers don’t bode well for the Buffs.

Look for more the same Saturday.

No. 15 USC 49, Colorado 28

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7 Replies to “CU v. No. 15 USC – A Preview”

  1. SC is going to score points period. Unfortunately the D is just not strong enough to stop it. Fortunately Cu’s offense can score points in a shoot out. Remember this SC D isn’t that great themselves. It feels like this will be the type of game where the last team to hold the ball will have a chance to win it at the end. So i am saying there’s a chance.

    COLORADO 52 USC 49

    GO BUFFS !!!!!

  2. The head says:

    USC 56 CU 24

    Only way I see the Buffs winning this one is if the run D has its best game of the year (unlikely given their performances against teams with less talent than USC) and USC uncharacteristically commits (or CU forces, which again is unlikely) turnovers.

  3. Agree with your prediction, Stuart.

    If CU’s run defense was even close to mediocre (rather than abysmal) this team has at least three more wins (Arizona, UCLA, and Arizona State) and possibly an upset over Washington, too.

    Instead, CU’s run defense keeps finding new ways to baffle. Whether that’s by giving up an NCAA-record amount of yards to Khalil Tate, or single-handedly boosting Washington State’s, UCLA’s, and Arizona State’s season rushing totals by 20-30 spots in the national rankings.

    Poor tackling? Sure. But also poor discipline. Defenders in the wrong gaps, defenders over-pursuing, defenders failing to shed blocks, defenders just flat-out getting pushed out of the way. There’s no single fix that the Buffs can employ, other than “get out to a monster lead early”, which worked against Cal but failed against ASU.

    Sometimes this year I’ve found myself thinking “are the opposing coaches complete idiots?! Why don’t they just run the ball every single play against us?!”. USC’s coaching staff are not completely idiots, though.

    USC rolls 50-30 ish

  4. In case you missed it:

    As I posted elsewhere I am predicting the
    Buffs Upset USC

    As far as this week…
    1. The Buffs have had no Karma this year.
    2. The Buffs have had almost zero breaks this year.
    3. The Buffs for the most part have had krappy coaching
    4. The Buffs for the most part have had krappy execution.
    5. It is senior day
    6. It is the last home game of the year.
    7. The Buffs will be wearing all black
    8. It will be a sellout
    9. The Buffs have never beaten USC
    10. The Buffs have the talent on the field

    Therefore I am predicting an upset.

    Uh Oh Fear the Mighty Buffalo

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