Colorado v. USC – “T.I.P.S.” for Attempt No. 14 for Win No. 1

It all started in 1927.

The CU football team – still seven years away from becoming the “Buffaloes” – traveled to Los Angeles to take on the USC Trojans. Coached by Myron Witham, the Buffs were 4-2 on the season, but came away on the short end of a 46-7 thrashing.

Almost a century – and 12 more losses – later, the Buffs are still looking for win No. 1 against USC.

The Buffs are 0-13 all-time against the Trojans, and haven’t been particularly close in most of those games. In the eight games played as members of the Pac-12, Colorado has lost by double digits six times (in case you were wondering, the two close calls for the Trojans came in 2015 – a 27-24 final – and in 2016 – a 21-17 game which proved to be CU’s only regular season conference loss that season).

The oddsmakers are predicting another double-digit win for USC, making it 14 straight wins over Colorado (the line started at ten points, but is now up to 13).

Will this be the year that the Buffs finally break through?

UCLA was a double-digit underdog to Stanford last week. The Bruins had to play on the road, and were up against an 11-game losing streak to the Cardinal. UCLA not only won the game, but won convincingly, 34-16.

So … stranger things have happened already this season than a CU home victory over USC …

This week’s “T.I.P.S.” for CU v. USC … Friday, 7:00 p.m. MT, ESPN2

T – Talent 

Colorado has lost three starting defensive backs – Chris Miller; Mehki Blackmon; and Aaron Maddox – this season.

USC has lost three starting running backs … in the past week.

Redshirt junior Vavae Malepeai, who leads the team with 406 yards rushing and four touchdowns, remains out after undergoing knee surgery last week. Junior Stephen Carr did not practice Monday after sustaining a hamstring strain against Arizona last weekend. It was then announced that Markese Stepp, who has rushed for 307 yards and six touchdowns, was undergoing ankle surgery, and could be out for five weeks.

“I’ve never lost three backs in one week in 25 years before, but, you know what, there’s a first time for everything,” USC head coach Clay Helton said.

But, fear not, this is USC, where fourth-stringers are still four-star performers. Against Arizona, freshman Kenan Christon was thrown into the fray … and quickly produced touchdown runs of 55 and 30 yards.

Handing the ball off to Christon will be a fellow freshman, quarterback Kedon Slovis, himself an injury replacement for JT Daniels, out since the season opener against Fresno State. Slovis is completing 73.6% of his passes, with nine touchdowns and four interceptions (compare Steven Montez, who is completing 63.8% of his passes, with 10 touchdowns and eight interceptions).

The USC receiving corps is dangerous, with the three-headed monster of Michael Pittman, Jr., Tyler Vaughn and Amon-Ra St. Brown combining for 120 receptions for 1,510 yards and 13 touchdowns (compare CU’s top three receivers – Tony Brown, Laviska Shenault, and K.D. Nixon – have a combined 83 receptions for 1,162 yards and seven touchdowns).

Suffice it to say … even with injuries in the backfield, the USC offense remains potent, and a real test for the Colorado defense.

The USC defense is also full of talented players (no surprise there), but unlike the Buffs, the Trojans have been good at keeping the opposition out of the end zone. USC is 92nd in total defense, surrendering 416.9 yards/game, but are 49th in scoring defense, giving up only 24.0 points/game.

Colorado, meanwhile, has given up a minimum of 30 points in all seven games this season (and in 12 straight games overall, dating back to last season).

I – Intangibles 

Are the Buffs imploding?

A fair question after being mauled by both a very good Oregon team, 45-3, and a very mediocre Washington State team, 41-10.

Coach Mel Tucker doesn’t believe so.

“We have a very unselfish football team,” Tucker said on Monday.  “I haven’t seen any finger pointing. I’m always going to have a pulse of the team. (Strength coach) Drew Wilson in our weight room … I consult with him and he hasn’t sensed or heard any finger pointing.”

While the Buffs no doubt have to find a way to correct the errors that have led to their three losses, Tucker isn’t wavering from his core fundamentals.

“We’re on the same page,” he said. “We all have to do better. We have to play harder, we have to play tougher, we have to play smarter. It’s not just one guy.  It’s a team effort. You win as a team, you lose as a team.”

Senior center Tim Lynott is in concert with his head coach. “A lot of guys are just, they’re sick of losing, and especially the past two games,” Lynott said. “That’s something that’s not us. That’s not the team we built it to be. We worked our butts off this season, so we shouldn’t be in that position. A lot of guys are trying to strive to improve and step up and whoever needs to step up needs to step up.”

The players “stepping up” may include some new faces.

Coach Tucker indicated that he was not past putting in a different lineup in hopes of achieving different results.

“We’ll look for guys that want to compete, guys that are going to be all in and going to do what we need them to do,” Tucker said. “Those guys will play. The other guys won’t play.”

The coaches and players are presenting a unified front to the public – there is no quit in this team.

We’ll see if that attitude carries over onto the playing field …

P – Preparation/Schedule

Both teams are on short weeks.

Colorado was on the road last Saturday, and, with a night game in Pullman, didn’t get home until the wee hours of Sunday morning (1:43 a.m., to be exact).

USC, meanwhile, had a night game at home against Arizona. The Trojans will lose their day of practice on Thursday, which will be their travel day.

Home teams usually get the better of Friday night games – it certainly didn’t hurt Oregon – but the Buffs will need more than just a short week if they hope to defeat the Trojans.

Looking ahead … Both teams will be playing in the Los Angeles area next weekend. The Buffs will be on the road, playing UCLA in Pasadena, while the Trojans return home to face Oregon. USC and Utah are tied atop the Pac-12 South, with the Trojans holding the tie-breaker due to a 30-23 win over the Utes in September. If the Trojans are to win the South, though, they will likely need to run the table, which means upsetting Oregon next weekend.

Could the Trojan players be guilty of looking ahead to their matchup with the Ducks?

Could the USC coaches err on the side of caution when it comes to injured players, opting to sit them out for the CU game in hopes of having those players at full strength for the Oregon game?

Buff fans can but hope …

S – Statistics

— This is the 13th time Colorado has played USC since the advent of the AP poll in the late 1930’s. In the previous 12 meetings, USC has been ranked nine times (Colorado three times). When the teams met in 1963 (the first game of Eddie Crowder’s coaching career at CU), USC was the No. 1 team in the nation. The Trojans got out of Boulder, but just barely, posting a 14-0 win over the Buffs;

— Friday night’s game will mark only the second time in which the teams have played with neither team ranked (the other coming in 2015 – a 27-24 USC victory);

— USC comes into the game with a 2-2 record against teams which were ranked when the teams played. Colorado is 2-1 against ranked teams this season;

What to watch for – Part I … It’s a cliche that turnovers are crucial for underdogs, but in this instance, it could come to fruition. Colorado is 22nd in the nation in forced turnovers (13), while USC is 113th in the nation in turnovers surrendered (14). The Trojans are minus-five in turnovers so far in 2019. If that trend continues Friday night … who knows?;

Something’s gotta give department … Colorado is 20th in the nation in sacks allowed, giving up only 1.3 sacks/game. USC, meanwhile, is 21st in the nation in sacks, posting 3.0 sacks/game;

What to watch for – Part II … USC is 96th in the nation in rushing defense, giving up 189.7 yards per game. If Alex Fontenot and the CU rushing attack can get going early (and keep getting opportunities), the Buffs can not only successfully move the ball down the field, but chew up some game clock and keep the ball away from the potent USC offense.

Prediction … If you are looking for some good karma as Colorado looks to end its 0-13 streak against USC (and why wouldn’t you be?), then thank the good folks at ESPN for choosing the CU/USC game for a Friday night broadcast.

Under the long term agreements with ESPN and Fox, all of the Pac-12 are subject to a number of Thursday night and Friday night broadcasts. ESPN needed to fit Colorado in at some point, so pitting the Buffs against ratings favorite USC works out well for the network (as it did in 2011 when CU hosted USC in the first Friday night home game in CU school history).

Why is the move good news this year? Well, if the game hadn’t been moved, the CU/USC game would have been played on October 26th.


Instead, the game will now be played on October 25th … which just happens to be the 33rd anniversary of the historic 20-10 CU over No. 3 Nebraska. The 2-4 Buffs were given no chance against the undefeated Cornhuskers that particular October 25th, but came away with a program altering victory.

Can lightning strike twice in Folsom Field on an October 25th?

When I told Mel Tucker during our interview in July about the stars aligning for a possible signature win on October 25th, he smiled and said, “I like the sound of that.”

Probably not going to happen, but it would be great to have the historic 1986 Nebraska game forever aligned with CU’s first-ever win over USC.

Last week, in my prediction for the Washington State game, I stated that the Buffs would have to make it happen on the field before I could start picking them again.

The Buffs didn’t do anything against the Cougars to deter me from that position. Hopin’, but not expectin’, that to change this week …

Prediction … USC 38, Colorado 20 … 

Previous predictions … 

Washington State 35, Colorado 24 … Actual: Washington State 41, Colorado 10

— No. 13 Oregon 33, Colorado 17 … Actual: No. 13 Oregon 45, Colorado 3

Colorado 38, Arizona 31 … Actual: Arizona 35, Colorado 30

No. 24 Arizona State 27, Colorado 17 … Actual: Colorado 34, No. 24 Arizona State 31

— Colorado 34, Air Force 24 … Actual: Air Force 30, Colorado 24 (OT)

Colorado 37, No. 25 Nebraska 31 … Actual: Colorado 34, No. 25 Nebraska 31 (OT)

Colorado 38, Colorado State 20 … Actual: Colorado 52, Colorado State 31


18 Replies to “Colorado v. USC – “T.I.P.S.” for Try No. 14”

  1. Mel wants to run the ball on his terms but Montez doesnt seem to be a part of the plan. I dont want Montez to take off every time he feels like he is getting pressured but a few designed QB runs at appropriate times when the D is aligned opportunistically might be the way to go. When the O is struggling every bit of diversity or misdirection helps.
    Not sure if Montez is given an option to the play called if the D lines up in an unfavorable position or if he is even allowed to change a call or call one on his own but at times that could be helpful too. Looking to the sideline for a play adjustment kinda helps tip of the D in my opinion
    Do the receivers have the option to create a new move or route if it appears the first cut was anticipated by the DB?
    I am not accusing the O coordinator or Mel but I have played on a team where zero flexibility( in the name of discipline?) had the effect of stifling an offense more than it helps. It helped the opposing D more in my opinion. Of course this was back in the Woody Hayes era when you had to run the ball straight ahead most of the time in an effort to just out machismo the other team….
    Maybe its just me but I get more satisfaction by fooling someone than beating him into the dirt…but of course its even better to do both

  2. I believe CU has never won a game in all Blacks and typically Fridays are not good to CU either. Anybody else getting tired of Friday night games? Anyway looks like every game is a must win to get to 6 this year. Don’t think it will happen but gonna go with the Buffs anyway.
    CU 33 USC 31
    GO BUFFS !!!!!

  3. Against a team leading the nation in sacks Montez will struggle. We will not keep pace and USC will likely win in a blow out…… Still going to the game. Prove me wrong Montez, turn the corner, throw with good fundamentals and take the hit in the pocket. If you can do this in this game you will set yourself up as a pro quarterback. Continue to panic, throw from your back foot, not be willing to stand in the pocket and take a hit while delivering the rock and we will lose again. It is all on Montez’s shoulders…… I hate to be a jerk but that is the way it is. He is still probably the best QB we have on staff so I wouldn’t replace him but how Montez goes is how we will go. If he can play like he did as ASU (even under pressure) we win, if he plays like he did against a poor WSU defense then we get blown out again. That simple.

    1. And this Stuart is why I skip straight to comments, I read after. I don’t like to red your prediction and have bias. I usually pick my score on TUE. Unfortunately we are close again in a losing effort

  4. USC 42 CU 17. Trojan receivers versus CU’s defense does not bode well. If Summers D doesn’t get down by 21 to 28 in the first half and the Buffs O can run the ball AND finish drives AND Montez head is right AND Buffs get 2-3 turnovers, then perhaps a more competitive game. I want to be terribly wrong on this prediction but until proven otherwise and different than last two games, I don’t see a close game. I will be there regardless. Great Buffs!!!

  5. A word about the Buffs “imploding”.
    If this had been the order of the early season schedule:
    Washington State
    The Buffs would now be 2-6
    Then people might say the team needs better players.
    The losses in the latter parts of this year and last year show that the toughest games come late, and that the team is not now “losing it”. They are simply over matched against certain teams.

  6. DB
    a freshman Trujillo
    a junior Rakestraw
    2 seniors, Abrams Onu

    Well that oughta be enough for a V

    Go Buffs…………….Beat CU

    Okay then is that good?

    1. Mark, I just hope their 4th string freshman rb who is the ca state track champion in 100 and 200 meter dashes can be contained. At least CU’s run d has been a little better this year. But, at least as big a concern are their wide receivers. Love your optimism. Hope the team shares it.

      Our offense will likely need to score a lot to keep this one close.

      Hoping the Buffs play a complete game and get that big home win. It would be a huge upset. That we would all love to see.

      Go Buffs

  7. Yo Stuart,
    Listening to folks around campus and reading the story and comments here explains why Colorado never beats USC. The Buffaloes and their fans never seem to actually play whatever Trojan team takes the field against them. They are always stuck in their heads playing the national champion and Heisman Trophy winning Trojan teams of years past.

    There are no Reggie Bush, Marcus Allen, or OJ Simpson running the ball for USC this year. There’s no Matt Leinart or Carson Palmer throwing the ball. But Colorado fans and players have those ghosts in their heads.

    USC is 4-3 this year. They are not on another 20+ game winning streak. Their coach wakes up every day wondering when he will be fired and Urban Meyer will be brought in to restore the program. USC is 0-3 on the road this year.

    But that doesn’t matter. The ghosts will keep Colorado from playing to win. All the CU players who grew up in California dreamed as kids of playing for USC. They see those uniforms and those helmets and they think in their heads that the USC players are better than themselves. They don’t believe they can win. And so they don’t.

    Before Mel Tucker came along, Carpetbagger Mickey suffered from that belief and it filtered down to his players. There was no way CU could be USC, and they played like it. Even in the 10 win 2016 season Colorado lost to USC.

    Tucker has no such fear of USC. The Alabama teams of the last 13 years have demonstrated the highest and toughest college football has to offer. USC has been mostly an afterthought in that time.

    Tucker may not realize how ingrained it is in the Colorado psyche just yet… but he will exorcise that demon in the coming years. I’m not sure if he will be able to get it done this year, but this USC team is ripe for the taking if Colorado focuses on the 2019 team instead of the legendary Trojan teams.

    I’ll be there at Folsom. Watching, encouraging, and hoping that this wretched curse finally comes to an end. If Colorado plays smart and disciplined, and Jay Johnson doesn’t turn his focus away from running trying to get the QB “right” the Buffs can and should win this game.

    We’ll see who shows up for Colorado. The team that causes turnovers? Or the team that throws multiple interceptions? The team that is jumpy and penalty prone? Or the team that came back against Nebraska and beat Arizona State in Tempe?

    We will see.


  8. Steven Montez needs to have the type of solid game which he has shown in flashes. And he needs to do so for four quarters. No way USC’s freshman QB should have a 10 percent better completion rate and half the interceptions than a fifth-year senior. GO BUFFS!

  9. I’m with you Stuart. Until the Buffs can prove they are not throwing the towel in I see a bad night in Boulder.
    CU 7 USC 42

  10. Given the CU offensive performance the last two games, 20 points in one game would be a breakout. Also mentioning USC’s deficient running defense guarantees a pass fest offense given Jay Johnson’s inability to stick with what is working…..unfortunately…….

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