CU v. USC: “T.I.P.S.” for the Buffs’ Attempt at Win No. 1 v. Trojans

… Related … If you prefer your predictions verbally, “CU at the Game Podcast: ”T.I.P.S.” for CU v. USC / Review of CU at Arizona State” can be found at Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or pretty much wherever you download your favorites. Or, if you would prefer, you can find the podcast here or here.

I’m sure you have already read this a half dozen times this week, but it bears repeating:

Colorado is 0-14 all-time against USC.

Oh, and you will hear it again and again between now and Saturday.

The losing streak dates back to 1927 (!), when the Buffs traveled to Los Angeles, returning home with a 46-7 defeat. There were a couple of losses in the early 1960’s (including a 14-0 loss against the No. 1 team in the nation), a couple more losses in the early 2000’s, and, of course, nine straight defeats since joining the Pac-12 (the teams didn’t play last year, in CU’s 10th season in the conference).

There have been some ugly games … 40-3 in 2002; 50-6 in 2012; 56-28 in 2014 … but there also have been some closer games, especially of late … 27-24 in 2015; 21-17 in 2016; and the 35-31 loss in 2019 in Boulder, with the Buffs taking a lead into the fourth quarter before giving up two touchdowns in the final stanza.

So, what will it be in 2021? A blowout because the CU coaching staff apparently grades improvement on offense based on first downs instead of touchdowns? Or a close game because the USC players are already looking ahead to the next coaching staff?

Without further adieu, here are the “T.I.P.S.” for the Buffs’ Pac-12 conference home opener against the Trojans …

This Week’s “T.I.P.S” for CU v. USC – Saturday, Noon, MT, Pac-12 Networks

T – Talent

What school this side of Nike U can have a quarterback who was the first-team All-Pac-12 performer last year, and a preseason first-team All-Pac-12 selection this year … be booed by the home fans?

That would be the University of Spoiled Children.

Kedon Slovis was ranked sixth in the nation in passing yards last season, has a record of 13-2 as a starter in Pac-12 play … but was not missed when he went out in the first drive of the Washington State game with a neck injury. Enter true freshman Jaxson Dart, who passed for 391 yards and four touchdowns in leading the Trojans from a 14-0 deficit to a 45-14 win over the Cougars.

But Dart himself was injured during the Washington State game, tearing his meniscus. Dart underwent minor surgery, and is expected to be out for an extended period of time – which includes the game against Colorado.

Slovis returned to action last weekend against Oregon State, passing for 355 yards in the 45-27 loss to the Beavers (in case you are wondering, CU’s Brendon Lewis has 313 passing yards – for the season).

The carousel at quarterback just goes to show how talented the USC roster is, as, unlike the Buffs, the Trojans can just plug and play four-star talent. The USC offensive line has four of its five offensive linemen back, and has a receiver who will receive All-American recognition this fall. Drake London has 39 receptions for 540 yards and three touchdowns. London averaged 16.5 yards/catch last weekend against the Beavers, and could have a field day against CU’s soft coverage (CU’s leading receiver, Daniel Arias, has four catches for 45 yards. CU hasn’t had a touchdown pass since the opener against Northern Colorado).

Oh and in case you are wondering … K.D. Nixon has two catches for 19 yards this fall. This just in … Don’t be surprised if the former Buff is in the lineup and gets several touches against his former teammates.

The USC defense is exceptional, at least on paper, with no fewer than five first- and second-team All-Pac-12 preseason picks. Yet this squad gave up 535 yards of total offense, including 322 rushing yards, to Oregon State. The defense can be had … by an aggressive offense playing as a cohesive unit.

The game plan for the Colorado offense is there for the taking. A strong rushing attack, with a controlled passing game with a game manager who can run the ball.

That was what we expected from the CU offense a month ago, before the season began. Whether the Buffs can deliver on that this Saturday remains an open question.


I – Intangibles

USC did not lose its chances at a Pac-12 title, or a berth in the College Football Playoff for that matter, with the 42-28 home loss to Stanford in Week Two.

But it must have felt that way to athletic director Mike Bohn, who relieved Clay Helton of his duties as head coach, promoting associate head coach/passing game coordinator/cornerbacks coach Donte Williams (over offensive coordinator Graham Harrell and defensive coordinator Todd Orlando).

Safe to say that the firing of a head coach is a distraction, with teams given the option of folding their tents, or use the firing as motivation. When Dan Hawkins was fired in November of 2010 (after the unbelievable come-from-ahead 52-45 loss to Kansas), the Buffs responded  by winning their next two games under interim head coach Brian Cabral. The 2018 Buffs, meanwhile, limped to a seven-game losing streak to end the season as the Mike MacIntyre era came to an ignoble close.

No one expects the Trojans to fold with so much season left to play, but the release of Clay Helton has to have an impact on the psyche of the Trojans.

This could certainly be the excuse for a Trojan lineup who is responsible for Oregon State ending a losing streak in the Coliseum dating back to the Eisenhower administration.

Colin Cowherd didn’t mince words when describing what could be the current state of the USC locker room: “I mean the SC staff is getting their resumes ready. This happens with interim coaches. Staff pivots into career survival mode. You especially see it in bowl games. (The Oregon State game) was a mess. Team was unprepared.”

But what of the current state of the Colorado locker room? The Buffs have lost three straight games – five straight now to FBS teams – and haven’t looked particularly competitive in doing so. The only loss in that span of less than two touchdowns was the 10-7 loss to Texas A&M.

“Losing is always tough, but especially being the competitors that we are,” safety Mark Perry said. “That’s what drives us being competitors. We’re not just gonna lay down. We’re gonna keep fighting. We’re gonna keep scratching and clawing to get out of this. The only people that we can look at is the people in that building, and we’re the ones that have to fix it and we’ve got to deal with it.”

Running back Alex Fontenot, who rushed for 65 yards and a touchdown against Arizona State, said the Buffs have no choice but the keep working through the disappointment.

“We’ve just got to get back to work next week and on to the next weekend and just don’t dwell on this,” he said. “It’s never hard to stay positive because there’s always a new opponent, new people and stuff (to work on). So it’s really just going into next week with a clear mindset and just going and doing our thing.”

The coaches and players for both teams are saying the right things as they endure disappointing seasons.

Which sideline is telling the truth?


P – Preparation/Schedule

We’re finally getting into the part of the season where the schedule and the status of the respective programs play a role.

No one expected USC, the No. 15 team in the nation in the Associated Press poll, to be 2-2, 1-2 right now. The Trojans came into the season as heavy favorites to win the Pac-12 South. USC had a schedule tailor made for success – missing both Oregon and Washington on the schedule, with contenders Utah and UCLA coming to the Coliseum. The fall looked like a golden opportunity to run the table in the Pac-12 South, with a marquee game against Notre Dame to solidify USC as a legitimate Playoff contender.


Now, the Trojans already have two losses in conference, and have games against Utah and Notre Dame coming up after their trip to Boulder.

Lose to the Buffs … and the Trojans could be looking at a 2-5 start to the season.

Yikes – that is certainly not what the USC fans were expecting a month ago.

Colorado, meanwhile, has a bye next weekend, before another home game against Arizona. Three weeks for the coaches and players to practice and prepare within the friendly confines of the Champions Center. The Buffs won’t hit the road again for almost a month.

Now, I don’t have an statistical data on the following, but teams approaching a bye could look at the upcoming off week in one of two ways:

— A good chance to leave it all out on the field, knowing that there will be an off week upcoming to work out the bruises and sprains; or

— The game is a race to the finish line before getting a rest, with players expending only just enough energy to get to the final gun before collapsing.

For Buff fans, we are hoping for the former. Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News wrote: Could this be the year CU finally beats the Trojans? It will require a mix of the reasonable (an inspired performance by the defense) and the unlikely (big plays by the offense). But if there was ever a time and a place, this might be it.

True dat.


S – Statistics 

Same song. Different verse.

There are ugly stats, then there really ugly stats.

And then there are the numbers CU is putting up on offense. The Buffs did show some improvement against Arizona State, but when you are considering a 250-yard game an improvement, your offense has a long way to go.

This just in … CU’s offense has a long way to go.

Hang in there … I’ll be gentle …

The “Race to 1,000” … turned into a stagger to the finish line. Tailbacks Alex Fontenot and Jarek Broussard opened the season in a race to become the 55th player in school history to rush for 1,000 career yards.  Alex Fontenot needed only four yards against Minnesota to get to 1,000, and, against the Gophers, Fontenot had three carries – for four yards. Jarek Broussard needed 34 yards against Arizona State to get to 1,000 … and got 35.

Not exactly reminiscent of Rashaan Salaam’s run to 2,000 in the 1994 finale against Iowa State, is it?

Stats to make you smile … USC is 107th in the nation in rushing, averaging only 117.2 yards per game on the ground … The Trojans are 84th in the nation in scoring defense, giving up 27 points per game …

Stats to make you cringe … Sigh … Where to start? … There are 130 FBS teams, and Colorado is … 123rd in first downs (60) … 128th in passing offense (85.0 yds/game) …128th in total offense (239.0 yds/game) … and 127th in scoring offense (13.8 pts/game) … you get the idea …

Stats to watch (i.e, stats which will decide the game)Penalties … Another week, another team which commits penalties. USC is 97th in penalties; 108th in penalty yardage. If you are looking for an upset, it helps if your opponent helps you … Third down conversions … The Buffs are only converting one-third of its third down opportunities (not coincidentally, CU is 110th in the nation in time of possession). Buffs need to keep the ball, and keep drives going … Red zone opportunities … Granted, CU hasn’t had that many opportunities in the red zone (nine, compared to 14 for its opponents), but the Buffs are going against a defense which is 15th in the nation in red zone defense. When chances at scores actually present themselves, the Buffs can’t come up four points short.


Prediction … 

Colorado has scored 20 points in three games against FBS competition this fall, yet is only a seven-point underdog to USC. That is a head-scratcher. The Trojans are averaging 32.5 points per game, and, even in their loss to Oregon State, scored 27 points and posted 431 yards of total offense.

You see the Buffs scoring three touchdowns against the Trojans? You see the Trojans scoring fewer?

Here’s what really scares me …

Did you notice that Arizona State ran a simple play a number of times last Saturday night: The wide receiver screen. Two wide receivers out wide. One would take a step back to collect a simple pass from Jayden Daniels, the other receiver would block the cornerback (it seemed to be Christian Gonzalez all night). The CU safety (usually Mark Perry) would then come up and push the receiver out of bounds after a 10-12 yard gain.

ASU ran that play again and again.

No reason for USC not to run that same play … except that USC has a first round NFL draft pick in wide receiver Drake London, who is a threat to take to the house every pass he catches.

That play enough could be enough to sink the Buffs.

Now, is it possible that the Buff defense, which hasn’t generated all of two turnovers in four games, could generate three or four turnovers against USC – and perhaps turn one or two of those into scores. It’s possible that the Buff offense could have a pass completion of over 20 yards (the longest pass to date was a 26-yarder to Ty Robinson against Arizona State … which came on a shovel pass). It’s possible that Buff special teams could create something special, either with a turnover or a long return.

It’s all possible, but not super likely …

Prediction … USC 27, Colorado 17

Previous predictions …

  • Colorado 38, Northern Colorado 17 … Actual: Colorado 35, Northern Colorado 7
  • No. 5 Texas A&M 38, Colorado 17 … Actual: No. 5 Texas A&M 10, Colorado 7
  • Colorado 21, Minnesota 20 … Actual: Minnesota 30, Colorado 0
  • Arizona State 27, Colorado 13 … Actual: Arizona State 35, Colorado 13



12 Replies to “Colorado v. USC: “T.I.P.S.” for Buffs v. Trojans”

  1. If USC doesn’t load the box like Minn and ASU did then CU will be pretty successful in the run game and score some points. Why wouldn’t USC load the box? Oh I don’t know. Maybe they weren’t paying attention. But they probably were and will. And CU will keep trying the same thing and struggle. And USC will pass for a lot of yards and score points. USC 35, CU 13.

  2. So if Chev says that he can only do(Type of Offence) what his player( BLew) is capable of….then why are we not running (QB keepers-run) more often. I remember both Sefo & Montez running a lot early in their CU careers when they couldn’t make throw. Damn… we have the leader(QB) of the Buffs National championship as a coach….run the F#$king Triple wishbone !….B Mac style !….just saying

  3. USC 31 CU 13

    Until something changes on the offensive side of the ball I don’t see CU winning another game this season. Maybe next season will be our year!?!


  4. Just watched the Chev presser on rivals. I was not impressed. He blamed everything on the freshmen including, of course, Blew. He danced around the question of Carter’s development which isnt a good sign. In short he didnt take blame for anything. When asked about the play calling he went right back to the freshmen saying he could only do with what he had to work with as players. BS in my book. He also kept saying that its going to take some time mentioning Montez who had 4 years here. In short nothing is going to change. Just keep the players working with what they have been giving them.
    So we have to wait how many more years to see progress? Doesn’t sound like any progress is forth coming from the coaches o rat least this one. They say they are using the players based on their abilities but it looks to me like they are just going to keep trying to pound a square peg into a round hole.
    Chev also was fairly animated in an aggravated fashion which I can understand with standing up and having to explain the failure. That also makes me wonder how he is meshing with KD.

    1. Have not commented on Chev…until now. My biggest beef with the program for the last 10-15 years?? We don’t ever get better as the season or years progress. Montez/Sefo never got better (they seemed to be the best their first couple of years vs. last couple as passers). 2016, last year…start really well, sputter towards the end. Years we are bad, we start bad and end bad….where is the in-season improvement???

  5. God I hate the university of spoiled children. Oregon state is bad, but that qb they have can dish the ball so much better than ours. USC will load the box, Lewis won’t pass, Dorrell won’t play Carter, we lose badly 35-6. Prove me wrong Dorrell….prove me wrong…..

  6. I actually almost feel like the offense is almost ready to almost play well enough to almost give the team a chance to almost win.

    Of course, all usc has to do is press man coverage and watch lewis refuse to throw to his receivers to win so…

    If USC had competent coaches this would be a blowout. They don’t, so who knows. I still bet on USC to cover though

    1. Also i hate morning games. Noon counts as morning to the pac12.

      Forecast calls for cool weather and 30% chance of precipitation. Not sure who that benefits. But it benefits the sun-and-heat-hating fans in the stands like me!

  7. Here is a prediction that is ridiculous and makes no sense on paper. So why make it? Because: a) Sometimes the totally unexpected occurs b) Perhaps the historic home loss is a shock that USC is still digesting. C) Because I have nothing to lose by doing so and the CU coaches and players could (?) approach the game the same way.

    CU 21 USC 20

    Go Buffs!!!

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