Scouting the Opposition

… Previews for Colorado State, Texas State, Northern Colorado and Washington can be found here … UCLA preview can be found here … Arizona preview can be found here … Oregon State preview can be found here … Washington State preview can be found here … California preview can be found here … Arizona State preview can be found here

Game Eleven – USC – November 11th

Last game … October 8, 2016 USC 21, No. 21 Colorado 17 … The Colorado defense forced four USC turnovers, but also allowed 540 yards of total offense as the Trojans defeated the Buffs for the 11th-straight time, 21-17.

In a battle of freshman quarterbacks, USC’s Sam Darnold won the day. Darnold went 25-for-37 for 358 yards and three touchdowns … with all three scoring passes going to tight ends. Steven Montez, meanwhile, was held to 192 yards passing, completing 24-of-39 passes, with one touchdown and one interception.

Bryce Bobo was in line for player of the game, with a career-high ten catches, going for 83 yards and a ten-yard touchdown. Bobo was also in on the Buffs’ other touchdown, with the junior receiver throwing a 67-yard touchdown pass to Phillip Lindsay to help keep Colorado in the game.

“We didn’t play Colorado football,” Mike MacIntyre said. “We didn’t play hard and fast like we’re capable of doing. They (the Trojans) are a good team and had something to do with that, but we didn’t play as well as we could have.”

… The 2016 CU/USC game story, “Moving (Just a Little) Too Fast“, can be found here …

2016 USC results – 10-3 (7-2 in Pac-12 play)

– Returning starters, Offense: 4 … Returning starters, Defense: 6

– 2016 National Rankings (Offense)

— Scoring – 36th … 34.4 points per game  (Colorado – 51st … 31.1 points per game)

— Rushing – 42nd … 200.7 yards per game  (Colorado – 56th … 182.6 yards per game)

— Passing – 25th … 276.4 yards per game  (Colorado – 47th … 254.5 yards per game)

— Total – 20th … 477.1 yards per game  (Colorado – 47th … 437.1 yards per game)

– 2016 National Rankings (Defense)

— Scoring – 38th … 24.2 points per game  (Colorado – 20th … 21.7 points per game)

— Rushing – 31st … 139.6 yards per game  (Colorado – 44th … 148.9 yards per game)

— Passing – 65th … 227.5 yards per game  (Colorado – 20th … 193.6 yards per game)

— Total – 36th … 367.1 yards per game  (Colorado – 19th … 342.5 yards per game)

How the Buffs fit into the Trojans’ 2017 schedule

Is this the year when USC finally lives up to the preseason hype?

Will quarterback Sam Darnold be the Heisman trophy front-runner when the Trojans come to Boulder on Veterans Day?

USC is No. 4 in the USA Today coaches poll, and will enter the 2017 season on a nine-game winning streak. Despite losing all of its starting receivers, 60% of the starting offensive line, and half of its starting defense, the Trojans were the prohibitive favorite in the Pac-12 media poll. USC picked up 49 of 52 votes to win the Pac-12 South, and 28 of the 52 votes to win the Pac-12 championship game.

USC opens with three games at home, against Western Michigan, Stanford and Texas. In Pac-12 conference play, the Trojans avoid Washington and Oregon, with the toughest road game coming against Washington State on a Friday night in late September.

Colorado represents USC’s only road game in November, sandwiched between home games against Arizona and UCLA.

If form holds, USC could be 11-0 and ranked in the top three in the nation when the Trojans come to Boulder.


Street and Smith’s has USC as the No. 1 team in the Pac-12 South, ranked No. 4 nationally.

When USC started last season by losing to Alabama, Stanford and Utah – all away from Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum – the even-keeled Clay Helton dug in … and gave the ball to a redshirt freshman named Sam Darnold.

That proved to be a pretty good idea.

Darnold took the starting job from Max Browne during USC’s last-minute loss at Utah, and the Trojans didn’t lose another game after that, winning at Washington and finishing with a Rose Bowl win. The unflappable dual-threat quarterback became a Freshman All-American, connecting on 67.2 percent of his passes …

… The schedule starts rough, much like last season. The Trojans do get the first three games at home, however, with Western Michigan, Stanford and Texas coming to the L.A. Coliseum in succession. There isn’t a single bye week in the schedule.

And if there’s a downside to Helton’s eventual success last year, it’s that expectations were raised even higher than normal. There won’t be any patience this time.


Lindy’s has USC as the No. 1 team in the Pac-12 South (1st in the Pac-12), the No. 2 team in the nation

Primary Strengths … USC intends to use more run-pass option plays for Darnold to take advantage of his athleticism. Darnold’s poise should force defenses to allocate more pass rushers, which could open some holes for the receivers. Helton said the defensive front seven was “violent” during spring practices with its ability to swarm to the ball.

Potential Problems … What happens if Darnold gets injured? USC’s backup quarterbacks are freshmen Matt Fink and Jack Sears. Darnold will be protected by two new offensive tackles. The defense will be in a nickel formation against most Pac-12 teams and two of the expected starters (Jack Jones, nickel Ajene Harris) still have a lot to prove. The big-play capacity is much less without Adoree Jackson.

Overview … The expectations are sky high for the Trojans, who want to make the College Football Playoff. They definitely have the quarterback. Do they have the offensive line, defensive line and cornerbacks? USC cannot afford another slow start, and the schedule includes an early games vs. Texas, plus back-to-back road trips in September (Cal, Washington State) and October (Notre Dame, Arizona State).


Athlon has USC as the No. 1 team in the Pac-12 South, the No. 5 team in the nation (CU is 3rd in the Pac-12 South; No. 34 overall) … Projected record: 11-2; 8-1

They’re the team to beat in the division. They’re loaded athletically, and they have one of the best quarterbacks in college football” – An opposing Pac-12 assistant coach

Final Analysis … The resurgence of USC, coming off its best season since the Pete Carroll era, is expected to continue, with the program inching toward its first conference championship in nearly a decade, and first-ever appearance in the College Football Playoff. Darnold, considered among the early favorites for the Heisman trophy, adding credence to the hype. But the Trojans remain young. More than 50 of their 85 scholarship players will be underclassmen. Coach Clay Helton has recruited well thus far, with two straight top-ten classes, so the Trojans are talented and have been free of NCAA sanctions since 2014. If USC is to become the third Pac-12 team in four seasons to make the CFB Playoff, it can thank a regular-season schedule which is more navigable, without Alabama and Washington. It’s likely the Trojans will be a factor in the race.


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