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2018 Game Six – CU at USC – October 13th

Last game between the two schools … November 11, 2017 … No. 15 USC 38, Colorado 24

Quarterback Sam Darnold threw for 329 yards and three touchdowns, rushing for another, leading No. 15 USC to a 38-24 victory over Colorado. Ronald Jones II added 142 yards on the ground for 9-2 USC, which defeated Colorado for the 12th straight time.

The Buffs were led by quarterback Steven Montez, who went 27-for-49 for 376 yards and two touchdowns. An interception for a touchdown thrown right before the half, however, gave USC a 20-0 lead at the half, with the Buffs never getting within two scores the remainder of the game.

Overall, the stats were fairly close, with both teams posting 23 first downs. USC had 522 yards of total offense, to 486 for Colorado. Mistakes on offense, defense, and special teams, however, doomed the Buffs to their sixth loss of the season, with a win on the road against Utah now a necessity if Colorado was to go bowling in consecutive years for the first time since 2004-05.

“We had some critical mistakes and kind of gave them the game,” said CU head coach Mike MacIntyre. “They’re the most talented team in our league year in and year out, no doubt about it. We had some opportunities tonight and squandered it away.”

… The full game story and You Tube video of the game, along with the essay for the game, “We Gave The Game To Them“, can be found here


2017 USC results – 11-3 (9-1 in Pac-12 play – Pac-12 champion)

– Returning starters, Offense: 6 … Returning starters, Defense: 7


– 2017 USC National Rankings (Offense)

— Scoring – 35th … 32.6 points per game  (Colorado scoring defense – 74th … 28.2 points per game)

— Rushing – 39th … 185.1 yards per game   (Colorado rushing defense – 108th … 208.0 yards per game)

— Passing – 16th … 299.0 yards per game   (Colorado passing defense – 94th … 242.6 yards per game)

— Total – 13th … 484.1 yards per game  (Colorado total defense – 109th … 450.6 yards per game)

– 2017 USC National Rankings (Defense)

— Scoring – 60th … 26.1 points per game  (Colorado scoring offense – 81st … 26.4 points per game)

— Rushing – 56th … 158.6 yards per game (Colorado rushing offense – 74th … 157.2 yards per game)

— Passing – 82nd … 237.0 yards per game (Colorado passing offense – 39th … 260.4 yards per game)

— Total – 68th … 395.6 yards per game  (Colorado total offense – 48th … 417.6 yards per game)


USC storylines … 

– And a little child shall lead them …

J.T. Daniels is 18 years old.

J.T. Daniels is skipping his entire senior year at Mater Dei high school, graduating after his junior year.

J.T. Daniels may well be the starting quarterback for the defending Pac-12 champions this fall.

Sam Darnold has moved onto the NFL, leaving behind him the biggest question mark on the USC roster. Daniels will be given every opportunity to win the job when he arrives on campus in Los Angeles this summer. Daniels will compete with sophomore Matt Fink and freshman Jack Sears, but prognosticators have Daniels becoming the next big man on the Trojan campus.

“I just felt like I was ready for the next challenge,” Daniels said when he announced his decision to forego his senior year. “I’ve started 40 games at the varsity level in the toughest league in the country and I didn’t think I needed another year of high school football. My best friends are in the 2018 class, those are the guys I grew up playing with and I wanted to graduate with them and start the next chapter of my life. It wasn’t an easy decision but I think I’m ready for it.”


Players make plays

While the stories this August will be about Daniels, there are other position battles which will shape USC’s bowl future.

The presumptive starter at running back is Stephen Carr, but Carr missed four games last season, and was limited in several others because of an ankle injury. This spring, Carr sat out … because of a back injury.

If Carr can’t go, there are talented – but untested – talent behind him. It’s not unusual for USC to have a stable full of four- and five-star running backs, but it is unusual that the Trojans do not have a proven quantity at the position.

For Daniels to be a success, it would be helpful to have a number of options at wide receiver. Unfortunately for the Trojans, there is only one returning starter among the wideouts. Fortunately for the Trojans, the returning starter, Tyler Vaughn, is a good one (57 receptions for 809 yards and five touchdowns in 2017).  Daniels will also have his former teammate at Mater Dei, Amon-Ra St. Brown, to throw to this fall. Amon-Ra St. Brown just happens to have been the No. 1-ranked receiver recruit in the nation last season.

The offensive line returns four of five starters, which it’s another good news/bad news story for USC.  There are four seniors, which can’t help but be a benefit for the new quarterback … but this is also a group which gave up 30 sacks in 2017 (up from 12 in 2016).

What really makes USC the big favorite to repeat as Pac-12 South champions (and perhaps as Pac-12 champions) is the defense. There are 20 players in the rotation who are 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.

The defensive backfield returns five seniors in the two deep, with four returning starters. The unit is experienced … but USC was 82nd in pass defense last season, so there will need to be improvement here if the Trojans are going to make a bid for the College Football Playoffs.



How the Buffs fit into the Trojans’ 2018 schedule

CU’s trip to the Coliseum in mid-October will be the first Buffs’ game outside of the state of Colorado in almost a month. After returning from a road game in Lincoln against Nebraska, Colorado gets New Hampshire, a bye week, UCLA, and Arizona State – all at home – before venturing out to Southern California.

USC, meanwhile, will take a different path to game six. After an easy opener against UNLV, the Trojans hit the road to face Stanford (a team the Trojans beat twice in 2017) and Texas (USC escaped with a 27-24 win in Los Angeles last season). USC then returns home to take on Washington State – the only Pac-12 team to beat the Trojans last season – before taking to the road again to take on Pac-12 challenger Arizona.

The CU/USC game will be Game Six for both teams this fall.

If USC stumbles out of the gate behind its freshman quarterback, it’s not inconceivable that CU will have a record equal to, or perhaps even greater than, USC’s come mid-October.

On the other hand, it’s not inconceivable that USC could be undefeated and ranked in the top ten after five games, while CU is struggling along with a 2-3 record.

If the latter scenario proves to be the case, look for USC to run its series record against Colorado to 13-0.


Bottom Line

Let’s not belabor the point made above.

In its history, Colorado has had 12 opportunities to defeat a USC team, and has come away empty handed 12 times.

Seven of those losses have come since Colorado joined the Pac-12, and the first four were routs (42-17, 50-6, 47-29, and 56-28). The three most recent games were agonizingly close (27-24, 21-17, and last season’s 38-24, above).

Will the 2018 game be another close game?

Or will it be a return to the routs of the not-too-distant past?

The pundits, who have USC vying for national playoff attention … and CU vying for four wins … would have us believe that a rout by the home team is in the forecast.

It’s a tough task to win in the Coliseum for any team. It’s a tough ask for CU fans to expect a road victory for the Buffs in Pac-12 play.

And yet two years ago, when the Buffs were playing at their best, they came within a field goal of toppling the Trojans on their home field. If the team is as focused and unified as they say they are this off-season … who knows?

The Buffs will have their chance to shock the nation come October 13th.


3 Replies to “Scouting the Opposition – USC”

  1. IF CU starts to play defense from the inside out
    IF the DC can put together a game plan to confuse what could be a very young SC QB
    IF you believe that CU can’t lose to a team 13 straight times
    then it is a no brainer…..CU wins!

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