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“T.I.P.S.” for CU’s attempt for first-ever win over USC

Colorado may be taking an undefeated record and national ranking with it to the Coliseum this Saturday.

But USC has history on its side.

Not only are the Trojans 12-0 all-time against the Buffs, but USC carries with it into the contest an 18-game home winning streak (13 straight against Pac-12 opponents). The 18-game home winning streak is the second-longest current streak in the nation (behind only Alabama’s 23-game streak).

Under Clay Helton, head coach since November, 2015, the Trojans have never lost at home.

There’s more … but you get the idea.

A Colorado victory this weekend would not only shake up the Pac-12 and gain for the Buffs a huge infusion of national attention (and respect) … it would be defying history.

No small task, that.

 

This week’s “T.I.P.S.” for No. 19 CU at USC … Saturday, 8:30 p.m. MT, FS1

 

T – Talent 

This just in … USC has talented players.

The Trojans have – and will forever have – more four- and five-star players in its lineup than almost any opponent they face. I saw one stat posted this week that USC has 52 blue chip players on its 2018 roster, the fourth-highest total in the nation.

Four- and five-star players on CU’s roster?

Six.

One reason that USC has struggled so far this season (by its standards) is that the Trojans graduated its first-ever 4,000-yard passer (in Sam Darnold), a back-to-back 1,000-yard rusher (Ronald Jones), and a pair of wide receivers who combined last year for 1,758 yards in receptions and 13 touchdowns.

True freshman – and 18-year old – quarterback J.T. Daniels hasn’t put up great numbers to date – a 60% completion rate, 1,257 yards, four touchdowns, three interceptions (compare Steven Montez – 75% completion rate, 1,420 yards, 11 touchdowns, two interceptions), but he has improved as the season has gone on, and will likely benefit from the bye week.

The rushing attack has been a work-in-progress for the Trojans, with a running back by committee – Aca’Cedric Ware: 335 yards; Stephen Carr: 276 yards; and Vavae Malapeal: 154 yards. Add it all up … and you get an offense which is 99th in the nation in rushing. (Keep an eye on Ware, though, who had a career-high 173 rushing yards against Arizona in USC’s most recent game).

If the rushing attack isn’t “student body right” of old ‘SC, then is the passing attack carrying the offense?

Not really.

USC usually runs a three-wide receiver set. The Trojans’ top three wideouts are Tyler Vaughn, Michael Pittman, Jr., and Velus Jones, Jr., who have a combined 610 receiving yards in five games, with two combined touchdowns.

Laviska Shenault in five games? A total of 708 receiving yards, with six receiving touchdowns.

What really made USC the favorite to repeat as Pac-12 South champions (and perhaps as Pac-12 champions) is the defense. There were 20 players in the rotation returning who were familiar with the Clancy Pendergast defensive schemes. Last season, the Trojans finished with 46 sacks, tied for Clemson for the nation’s lead in that category.

This season, however, the Trojans have produced only nine sacks (82nd nationally) in five games. Compare: Arizona State came to Boulder last weekend with 18 sacks in five games … and left Boulder with 18 in six games.

One player to watch out for is inside linebacker Cameron Smith. Smith has led the team in tackles the past two seasons, and is on pace to break the career tackle record at USC. He leads the team in tackles again this fall, and has 30.5 career sacks.

The defensive backfield returns five seniors in the two deep, with four returning starters. The unit is experienced … but USC is a mediocre 52nd in the nation in pass defense so far this season.

The USC defense has been good, but not intimidating.

Hmmm … so, what is so great about USC in 2018, then?

USC’s special teams. In five games, the Trojans have produced the Pac-12 Special Teams Player-of-the-Week three times, including its placekicker and defensive lineman Jay Tufele, who blocked a field goal late in the Washington State game, preserving a 39-36 victory.

I – Intangibles

Colorado is 5-0, the only team west of the Mississippi with an unblemished record.

Still, the 2018 Buffs are in search of a win which would help catch the nation’s attention. (Or, at least the attention of ESPN’s Football Power Index. Last week, the FPI projection was that 4-0 CU would post only one more win all season, against Oregon State, and would finish 5-7. This week, after the Buffs beat Arizona State? According to “Not all undefeated records are created equal“, ESPN’s FPI has CU finishing 6-6 … posting only a win over Oregon State).

While a kickoff at 10:30 p.m., eastern time, isn’t going to help CU’s national viewership, a win over the Trojans would certainly be an eye-opener for the nation’s sportswriters come Sunday morning.

Pundits can’t help but point out CU’s lackluster schedule to date – but take a look at what the Trojans have produced.

After taking out UNLV in the season opener (a Rebel team which lost last weekend, 50-14, to New Mexico), USC lost 17-3 to Stanford (a Cardinal team which just gave up 38 and 40 points to Notre Dame and Utah, respectively), then led Texas 14-0 … before giving up 37 unanswered points, was a blocked field goal away from overtime at home against Washington State, and watched a 24-0 lead evaporate into a 24-20 contest in its most recent game against Arizona.

Despite winning the Rose Bowl two seasons ago, and winning the Pac-12 title last year, fans of the University of Spoiled Children are not happy.

On the Podcast of Champions, which features sportswriters who cover USC and UCLA, Ryan Abraham, who the USC beatwriter, has talked about how the USC fan base is not happy with head coach Clay Helton, despite his W/L success on the field (one beef, the Trojans practiced only twice during their bye-week, despite coming off a game against Arizona in which they committed 18 penalties for 169 yards).

… (Side note … If you are interested in college football related podcasts … For CU related stories, check out the Freeballin Podcast … For national coverage, I listen to the Solid Verbal podcast) …

There is already speculation that if Helton doesn’t finish strong this fall, that he may be ousted (Helton is 30-12 overall at USC, in case you were wondering). Alumnus and former NFL head coach Jack Del Rio is the favorite of those hoping to see a new coach for the Trojans in 2019.

A young team, with a coach who has not endeared himself to the faithful, coming off of a start to the season which has been less than stellar (USC was ranked No. 15 in the country in the preseason poll, but has not received a single vote in the poll since Week Three)?

If the Buffs are going to break their streak of 12 straight losses to the Trojans, this might be the year to do it.

 

P – Preparation/Schedule 

The USC is coming off of a bye week, get to play the Buffs at home, with a night game which will end around midnight mountain time.

Pretty good upside for the home-standing Trojans.

Colorado, meanwhile, is leaving the state of Colorado for a game for only the second time this season, and for the first time in a month.

The game kicks off at 8:30 p.m., MT, and will end around midnight, mountain time.

Advantage: USC.

Colorado fans may be banking upon the Buffs (and their coaching staff) to make halftime adjustments like they have in almost every game this season. CU has been dominant after the break, giving up a nation’s best three total points in the fourth quarter so far this year.

If history is to be a guide, however, the Buffs will have to play better in the first half against the Trojans, or there won’t be much reason to count on second half adjustments.

Last season in Boulder, the final was 38-24, USC. On the surface, that doesn’t sound so bad, what with Sam Darnold and the Trojans on their way to a Pac-12 championship, and CU on its way to a 5-7 finish.

But that game last November was 20-0, USC, at halftime. It was 27-0, Trojans, before the Buffs dented the scoreboard.

The last time Colorado played in the Coliseum, the final score was 21-17. Again … respectable.

But that game, which featured a Buff squad which would finish the regular season 10-2, had a halftime score of 14-0, USC.

So, yes, scorekeepers, CU has been out-scored by USC by the margin of 34-0 in the first half of the last two games between the two teams.

A slow start this weekend is not an option …

S – Statistics

— CU sophomore wide receiver Laviska Shenault continues to lead the nation in both receptions per game (51, or 10.2/game) and receiving yards per game (708, or 141.6/game);

— Quarterback Steven Montez, connecting on three-quarters of his attempts (.752), is just a fraction behind Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa for the nation’s lead in pass completion percentage;

— Running back Travon McMillian is 20th in the nation in rushing (105.6 yds/game). The combination of Shenault and McMillian makes Colorado one of only three teams in the nation — joining Ole Miss and Oklahoma State — with a player in the national top 20 in passing, receiving and rushing yards per game;

— USC, which plays in the Coliseum (capacity: 78,467) has averaged 55,564 in two home games to date (although a larger crowd is expected for “Family weekend”);

— Colorado, in two Pac-12 conference games, has scored 66 points, and given up 37. USC, in three Pac-12 conference games, has scored 66 points … and given up 73;

— CU may have had some slow starts, but Steven Montez has not. In the first five games of the season, Montez, in the first quarter, is a combined 40-of-46 for 444 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions;

— Colorado has back-to-back road games the next two weeks, traveling to USC and then to Washington. In CU’s first seven seasons in the Pac-12, the Buffs are 0-5-2 on such weekends (zero sweeps; swept five times; two splits).

Prediction …

Colorado is listed as a 7.0-point underdog to 3-2 USC this weekend.

There probably aren’t too many undefeated and ranked teams playing this week who are underdogs to teams with two losses (just guessin’).

However, this is Colorado, which, in case you have been living under a rock for the past six weeks, “hasn’t beaten anybody”.

This is also USC, which has won a Rose Bowl and a Pac-12 championship in the past two seasons, has an 18-game home winning streak, and has more four- and five-star players on its current roster than CU has had in the past decade.

My concerns …

— USC, despite its early struggles, has had an extra week to coach up its young talent;

— CU, despite its excellent halftime adjustments, hasn’t played well out of the gate against its three Power-Five conference opponents. While the Buffs were able to overcome first half issues against Nebraska, UCLA and Arizona State, they might not be so lucky against the Trojans;

My reasons for supporting a CU upset …

— USC is minus-four in turnovers so far this fall, and is last in the Pac-12 in penalties … suggesting an undisciplined team;

— When reviewing the statistics, there aren’t too many numbers that scare you. Granted, five games does not a season make, but stats in early October are a pretty fair indication as to where a program is heading. USC is currently ninth in the Pac-12 in total offense (CU is 2nd); seventh in total defense (CU is 6th); 9th in scoring defense (CU is 3rd); and, most importantly (at least in my eyes), 11th in scoring offense (CU is 3rd).

In last week’s “T.I.P.S.”, I finished with: “You have to believe in this team until or unless someone proves we should believe otherwise …”.

So, I have to go with the Buffs – right?

My head, which has been witness to numerous blowouts at the hands of the Trojans – together with a few frustratingly close losses – says there will be some play (turnover, blocked kick, missed assignment) which will turn the tide against the Buffs.

My heart says this is the year the curse ends.

Sorry, I can’t do it.

Hoping I’m wrong …

… USC 24, Colorado 20 … 

Previous predictions … 

Prediction: Colorado 34, Arizona State 27 … Actual: Colorado 28, Arizona State 21

Prediction: Colorado 30, UCLA 21 … Actual: Colorado 38, UCLA 16

Prediction: Colorado 48, New Hampshire 10 … Actual: Colorado 45, New Hampshire 14

Prediction: Colorado 31, Nebraska 24 … Actual: Colorado 33, Nebraska 28

Prediction: Colorado 41, Colorado State 24 … Actual: Colorado 45, Colorado State 13

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22 Replies to “No. 19 Colorado at USC – A Preview”

  1. Margis are great anytime.

    Lindgren is gone and I can’t be happier. He was the milstone. MickeyMac can now be a HC. He will do what is best for him always. But damn he is doing good for the Mighty
    Buffs this year.

    In to the valley rode the Earache six hundred. Fortunately they are riding with OSU.

    Buffs.

    Go Bif Chev. You are the one.

    Note: No note.

  2. Disappointed in your prediction Stuart. My opinion is that with a frosh QB the Trojans are ripe for mistakes and inconsistency. The Buffaloes O seems to be getting better and better, and the D is stout. First win over the U of spoiled children, 31-17.

  3. The Lindgrening effect is all over OSU and no longer over The CU Mighty Buffs. Now with that being said The Mighty Buffs are in a position to break the streak. Your Earache is caused by the unknowing, the rabid fanatic, the follower of the “run the qb up the middle no matter what, the wishful thinker and the wannabe like Mickey.

    As the game gets closer, flashbacks of the charge of the light Brigade come into view, led by the squeaker of Cali.

    Can’t wait for the game. Gonna be great. Tequila early, Margys late.

    Go you mighty Buffs, make the dreamers dreams come through.
    Go you Mighty Buff players, execute better than you ever have.
    Go you Mighty Buff coaches, continue to give the players the ability to win like we haven’t seen in 15 years. (The difference maker)

    Buffs.

    Note: Uh Oh MickeyMac has been added to the COY list again for leading the Mighty Buffalo.

    Note 2:

    Note 3: Lots of nice games tomorrow.

    1. Uh oh. Did you hit the margaritas a little early today? I don’t think the Rio’s open yet?

      Once again, you said a lot in that post, without really saying anything. Well, other than “lots of nice games tomorrow.” That’s true. Capped off w/ a CU win at the Coliseum.

      Go Buffs.

  4. Stuart great tips. Other than history and one section you show buff dominance. But 0-12 scares you too much. I get it. But you are wrong.
    1. The usc defense is who their record says they are, a slightly below average PAC 12 team. Our balanced attack will keep them reeling and just like versus ASU we will own the 4th quarter with a smash mouth drive to salt the game. Because we keep their offense mostly contained we are going to keep this a lower scoring affair than 100% wrong Leach by using the run game to own the clock.
    2. Our D is “dispensing justice”. They are going to give some big plays because that is how football works these days but our d is ok with that. See the ASU end of the 3rd quarter. We keep playing and fighting on every down. In the usc games I have watched it seems their opponents can give up after a big play. When they don’t usc often screws up and gets caught.
    3. Laviska will be the most talented player on the field. Landmen will the the second most. When was the last time a statement like that could be made about a USC CU game?
    4. Montez has grown. His reads are tight, his decision making excellent, he gets the ball out fast.
    5. We may have found our o-line. Against one of the better d lines in the conference they held strong…..

    Frankly, we’re it part of Chev’s nature I think we could hang 35 easy on USC and if it turns into a track meet we will. But I don’t think so. I think We play with USC all game and just grind on them. By the 4th quarter we will go up by a score again and then Chev is going to slow the whole game way down. We are going to stay surprisingly consistent from last week because we are on the road. CU 28. USC 21. They punt the ball to us with 4 minutes to play and 3 time outs and we clock them……

  5. Though my heart has always rooted for the Buffs and I felt, over the years, that we had a chance against USC particularly in 2016, I don’t think that I have ever picked the Buffs to win outright. This year I do. It’s not because USC is down, its because there appears to be the intangible “stuff” that can’t be measured by statistics or the number of stars on a roster. This includes the quiet “brotherhood” between team players, the resilience of the team to take care of business (one more win in the next two games and I vote that the official song of the Buffaloes should be “Taking Care of Business” by Bachman Turner Overdrive), the adjustments by the coaching staff, the aggressive play calling, what appears to be the alignment across the whole team from coaches to players, and the motto “nothing to say, a lot to prove”. The pundits are all ripping on the Buffs which adds to the feeling of “watch me do it” when everyone says it can’t be done. Macintyre should show them the movie “300” the night before the game. The past doesn’t matter, only now matters and whether the Buffs are just themselves and believe it can be done. If they tighten up and start doubting, then the tangibles for USC will prevail.

    CU 28 USC 27

    Go Buffs!!!

  6. Colorado is going to beat USC. No I didnt drink the Kool Aid. This Colorado team is not making stupid penalties like the teams that they are playing and USC does. Teams are commiting stupid penalties against the Buffs because they are getting owned and are trying to hang with them. Colorado does not blow up the score board, they blow up the clock and even on the road against big bad USC, they will do it again. Teams dont learn discipline after a bye week. 24-20 Colorado.

  7. What I’ve seen the last two weeks were moments where Buff teams of past would’ve crumbled. I will admit, when Landman went out on that bogus call, I thought to myself, there it is the football gods have come out to haunt us. but no, the Buffs continued on like a machine. Mac is right, these guys are un-phased by momentum swings. Montez is playing lights out. D is making adjustments. Buffs are on a mission and not even big bad USC can stop them. Buffs 34 USC 31. Go Buffs!

  8. CU 27 USC 17. The Buffs D is nasty ……REAL NASTY!!! Just ask N’keal Harry and Manny Wilkins! By the end of the 3rd quarter I believe we will have taken the fight out of their offense. On the other side of the ball, I will leave it up to Clayton and Darrin to put together another offensive game plan to exploit their weaknesses. GO BUFFS!!

  9. I think your prediction is fair. If we had them at home I would feel a lot better. I have told people around me that I hope they will win, and will be rooting them to win. But I cant expect us to beat USC until they actually do it because it has never happened. My heart and head are also at conflict and I would be so glad to be wrong. But i see a last second field goal beating us and ripping our hearts out again.

  10. Your prediction plays perfectly with the team this year….I love how everyone is looking at who we played, not how we played. Buffs vs. the world is the right mindset. If we can game plan a couple of shots using Viska as a decoy (i.e. out of the wildcat) and win turnovers/penalties I love our chances. Go Buffs!!

  11. Beat the Trojans this year and I will be glad to predict a CU win next year. But until we actually beat the Trojans I have to say:
    CU 27 USC 35.
    Time to get the Monkey off of our back.

  12. Can’t do it, Stu?! Come on man. This game will definitely be a close one.

    My prediction: CU 97 USC 3 – tighter than the other five so far, for sure.

    Go Buffs.

  13. Sorry Stuart. This time the curmudgeon stays in the closet. I will reverse your score. If the line play on both sides can keep their momentum up the Buffs come out ahead. I know they barely beat the creamed corn but they hung in to the end in one of the most intimidating road venues in the nation. I am counting on their youthful enthusiasm and brother hood to reverse the road curse. Along with that I dont think the corn was all that rotten….until we beat em. The manic depressive atmosphere in Lincoln can create a cloud on the culture when they are beaten in a home opener by the hated Buffs. All the husker enthusiasm can be a two edge sword…or ” the harder they fall”
    Anyway this could be the year of the also rans in the PAC South. This may not be a a beat down the extent the Utes handed to Stanford but something along the same lines.
    I hope I am not wrong
    Go Buffs!

    1. Yo ep,

      I feel ya. Huskers have a lot of talent. Terrible coaching the last few years and a jump start for Frost that melted. USC has a lot more. Coaching?

      Buffs do have this wonderkin deal going on. They could have lost to ASU, Kornkobs and UCLA. But they didn’t Winning the close games. Yup they got the mojo.

      Coaching staff doing amazing things. Adjustments. Haven’t seen that from the O in five years.

      Nice

      Buffs

      Note: And the defense adjustments? Holy Moly. Look at the 2nd half stats. All of them

        1. Yo Rob,

          Which Rob are you? There are so many.

          Prediction? Nah! Don’t do em. Don’t bet on games either. Most are just goofy, hopeful, irrelevant. (see earache). I like to be entertained. I like just watching the game. Don’t want to “know” the outcome till its over. Don’t predict it cause it changes how I watch it. You?

          Do I want the Buffs to win? ABSOLUTELY Do I think the Buffs will win? The outcome is in doubt until the game is played. “Nothing to Say, Lots to Prove”
          I’ll wait. I’ll watch. I’ll be cheering. I’ll enjoy it (more if they win).

          Uh Oh Here Come the Mighty Buffalo

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