CU v. USC: “T.I.P.S.” for the Buffs’ last chance at a first victory over the Trojans

… Related … If you prefer your predictions verbally (and from more than one voice), “CU at the Game Podcast: “T.I.P.S.” for CU v. USC, can be found at Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or pretty much wherever you download your favorites. Or, if you would prefer, you can listen to the podcast here .


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Well … The Buffs had their souls cleansed last Saturday by No. 10 Oregon.

Coach Prime called the game a “butt-kicking”.

Buff fans couldn’t be blamed for calling it a “2022 rerun”. Just like most of the games CU played last season, the Buffs were out of the game against the Ducks before halftime, and didn’t even make a representative fight in the second half.

Yup. Sounds like most of the games played by CU last season to me.

Fortunately, however, we know different. We know the personnel being put on the field is different that what CU had to work with last season. We know the coaching staff is different. We know the vibe is different.

Most importantly … We know the future is different.

The Buffs face another still challenge this weekend against No. 8 USC. The Buffs are again a three-touchdown underdog. The Buffs again will be out-manned in the trenches. The Buffs – and their fans – will again be hoping that Shedeur Sanders can keep standing, despite being the most harassed quarterback in the FBS.

Last weekend, Arizona State, also a huge underdog, threw everything they had at the Trojans … and still came up two touchdowns short.

Can the Buffs, with the aid of a sold out “White Out” Folsom Field, finally defeat the Men of Troy?

Let’s find out …


This Week’s “T.I.P.S” for Colorado v. No. 8 USC – Saturday, 10:00 a.m., MT, Fox

T – Talent

QB1 has gone 75-for-101 passing so far this fall (74.3%), going for 1,200 yards, with 15 touchdowns and no interceptions.

QB2 has gone 130-for-169 passing so far this fall (76.9%), going for 1,410 yards, with 11 touchdowns and one interceptions.

While the stats for both quarterbacks are exceptional, the first quarterback has a piece of hardware the second covets … a Heisman trophy.

USC suffered through a 4-8 season in 2021. Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley was lured away from Norman, bringing with him quarterback Caleb Williams. The result of the move was an 11-3 record for Riley and a trip to the Downtown Athletic Club in New York for Williams.

Still, despite fielding an offense which is third in the nation in total offense 569.2 yards/game, and 1st in the nation in scoring offense (55.0 points/game), USC is flying a little under the radar nationally so far in 2023. The Trojans’ first two games – routs of San Jose State and Nevada, were televised by the Pac-12 Networks, while the last two games – conference wins over Stanford and Arizona State – kicked off at 10:30 p.m., Eastern time.

While much of the nation has yet to watch the Trojans play, the stats are nonetheless causing writers and fans to take a second look: USC scored 56 points or more in the first three games of the season before being “held” to 42 points by Arizona State.

This just in: The USC offense is prolific.

Williams has any number of weapons at his disposal, which is a problem for the opposition. Seven different wide receivers have scored in the first four games, six have over 100 receiving yards, and there are three who are averaging over 20 yards per reception (with all three posting touchdown receptions going for over 70 yards).

One of the leading receivers to date is a name familiar to Buff fans. Brenden Rice has 12 catches for 257 yards and a team-leading five touchdowns. Tahj Washington, who had a 61-yard touchdown against the Buffs in last season’s 55-17 rout in Los Angeles, has made the most of his ten receptions, with four of those going for touchdowns and a team-leading 278 yards.

Oh, and don’t rest on Zachariah Branch, the great-nephew of CU legend Cliff Branch. In addition to his 178 receiving yards (with two touchdowns), Branch also has already posted a 75-yard punt return for a touchdown, and a 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.

Not that the Trojans need it, but they also have a rushing attack which is going for almost 200 yards/game, led by MarShawn Lloyd, who is averaging almost nine yards per carry (34 for 349, with two touchdowns).

In case you are wondering … the Trojans are going to score on the Buff defense.

Can the Buffs match the Trojans score for score?

The knock on those who were not impressed with the rise of USC in Year One under Lincoln Riley was the play of the defense. In 2022, the Trojans were 93rd or worse nationally in passing defense (111th), total defense (105th) and scoring defense (93rd).

The numbers for 2023, albeit against suspect competition in the first four games (San Jose State, Nevada, Stanford and Arizona State), are much improved. The strength of the defense is in back end, with All Pac-12 performers at linebacker and in the secondary. If you want to be successful against the USC defense, you need to be able to run the ball.

And Colorado is dead last … 133rd in the nation … in rushing offense.



I – Intangibles

“You get your butt up and let’s go,” Sanders said after the Buffs’ 42-6 loss at Oregon on Saturday. “We ain’t got time to have no pity party. Ain’t nobody walking around the locker room with napkins and tissues. Get your butt up, let’s get on that plane and let’s go. We got work to do.”

How much will the Buffs take this to heart? While the nation wasn’t sure what to make of the Buffs a month ago, there are now expectations. A loss to the Ducks was anticipated, but the Buffs certainly didn’t expect the beatdown they received. How will the players react? Will they be resilient (as they proved in their first three games, coming from behind to beat both TCU and CSU)? Or is the Oregon game a preview of how other teams will exploit the weaknesses in the Buffs’ roster?

Another quote from Coach Prime after the Oregon game bears repeating.

“One thing that I can say, honestly and candidly, you better get me right now,” Coach Prime said after suffering his first loss at CU. “This is the worst we’re gonna be. You better get me right now.”

Two questions about the quote. First, why didn’t Coach Prime say “you better get ‘us’ right now”? Everything he does and says is calculated, so you know that he was aware that his critics would run with Coach Prime making this all about him, and not the Colorado football program. He could have silenced many of the “he’ll be gone after this year” critics if he had made his quote about the future of the Buffs, and not about him.

My other quibble. Instead of saying “This is the worst we’re gonna be”, Coach Prime really should have said, “This year is the worst we are gonna be”. The Buffs are an injury to Shedeur Sanders away from being a very mediocre team. If CU’s quarterback goes down, and the Buffs start taking double digit losses to the likes of Arizona State and Stanford, you just know the pundits will be all over it: “Is this the worst your gonna be?”. If there was a qualifier in there, Coach Prime could have been given a pass on the comment until the Buffs can refit and reload this offseason.

Just sayin’ …

As to the Trojans and the game this weekend … Despite defeating Arizona State, 42-28, USC dropped three spots in the AP poll this week. Don’t think for a minute that the USC coaches and players didn’t notice.

The message from the AP voters: You haven’t played anybody … You haven’t been on television on a network or at a time many of the voters could watch you play … And you weren’t impressively dominating a lesser foe this past weekend.

That, my friends, doesn’t bode well for your Buffs. If the Trojans get a chance to show up the Buffs on national television Saturday … they will. If they get a chance to run up the score against your Buffs on Saturday … they will. If they get a chance to showcase Brenden Rice, so that commentators can remind viewers that Rice is a former Buff, but defected for greener pastures … they will. If they get a chance to showcase Heisman repeat candidate Caleb Williams, and have him put up absurd numbers to remind the voters that he is the reigning Heisman winner … they will.

Color me concerned.

Sounds weird, but I would have much rather had USC beat Arizona State last weekend by 34 points – like they were favored to do – than come to Boulder with something to prove.


P – Preparation/Schedule

It’s understandable, what with over nine million watching the CU/CSU game, and over 10 million watching the CU/Oregon game, that Fox would want to focus on the Buffs playing an even bigger brand in USC.

While I don’t mind being the Big Noon Saturday game on Fox this weekend, it wouldn’t have hurt my feelings if the Kickoff show originated elsewhere.

Fox has showcased Colorado four times in the first five weekends. Even some Buff fans are wondering if the coverage is overkill, but with the audience likely to set yet another record for viewership, who can blame Fox for cashing in while Colorado and Coach Prime are still a major national story?

And could the scheduling actually help the Buffs in their efforts to upset the Trojans?

This will be the third time this season CU players are being prepped to play a game at 10:00 a.m., but this is new territory for USC. Kickoff will be at 9:00 a.m., Pacific time, so the Trojans’ body clocks will not be as well adjusted as those of the Buffs.

Will it make a difference?

Can’t hurt.

There’s also something interesting about the scheduling done by the Pac-12 which bears note here, as it affects USC and how the results of the early season may affect the perception of the Trojans going forward.

Well before the Pac-12 disintegrated into the Pac-2, the conference schedules were announced. The conference, looking for its first College Football Playoff participant since 2016, contrived schedules trying to give its best teams the best opportunity to get to midseason undefeated.

The conference, which had eight ranked teams last week, is a minefield, but somehow the top teams were scheduled to avoid each other early on.

Washington … got Cal and Arizona … then a bye week before facing Oregon.

Oregon … got Colorado (picked 11th in the preseason) and Stanford … then a bye week before facing Washington.

USC … got Stanford … then Arizona State … then Colorado … then Arizona.

Meanwhile, the teams predicted to be in the middle of the Pac got schedules which pitted them against one another. UCLA and Utah got to play each other, as did Washington State and Oregon State.

The result? The Pac-12 has four top ten teams in the Associated Press poll for the first time in conference history.

We’ll see how it plays out when the top teams start playing each other later this season …


S – Statistics 

There are some good news stats … and some bad news stats … okay, mostly not so good.

— USC is ranked 75th in the nation in rushing defense, which should be considered good news … but the Buffs are last – dead last – in the nation in rushing. Yes, all of the sack yardage counting against the rushing yardage doesn’t help, but even if you take out the sacks, the CU rushing attack has been Last in the nation in rushing offense … even with sacks taken out … not good. Perhaps the introduction of Alton McCaskill late in the Oregon means that McCaskill is ready to make his national debut as a Buff this weekend.

— USC has only committed two turnovers in four games. This is not good news for a three-touchdown underdog. The Buffs are going to need some help from the Trojans if they are going to make a game of it. Short fields for the offense, and failed drives in CU territory, will be a key for the Buffs’ chances.

— USC is 123rd in the nation in penalties, committing 37 in four games … that’s the good news. Unfortunately, the Trojans are tied for 123rd in the nation in penalties committed … with Colorado. If the Buffs are going to overcome the discrepancy in talent, they will have to play a clean game, and hope that the Trojans continue their sloppy play.


Prediction … 

Arizona State threw the kitchen sink at USC last weekend. The Sun Devils tried an onside kick (not successful), a fake punt (successful), and two halfback passes (one connected; one was a sure touchdown which was overthrown) … and that was just in the first half.

Despite pulling out all of the stops, Arizona State – a 34-point underdog – only succeeded in keeping the game close. Ultimately, USC’s speed and talent advantage proved more than Arizona State’s roster could handle.

The same will likely hold true Saturday morning in Boulder.

The Buffs will have the advantage of the early start, and the crowd will definitely be with them early. The players may not have suffered through a string of lopsided losses to USC, but the Buff Nation has. The players may not see this game as the Buffs’ last hope to right a wrong, but the Buff Nation does.

Too bad that this team is the “worst we’re gonna be”.

Prediction … No. 8 USC 45, Colorado 24

2023 Predictions: Straight up: 3-1; Against the Spread: 3-1

  • Prediction: No. 17 TCU 33, Colorado 21 … Actual: Colorado 45, No. 17 TCU 42
  • Prediction: No. 22 Colorado 34, Nebraska 21 … Actual: No. 22 Colorado 36, Nebraska 14
  • Prediction: No. 18 Colorado 42, Colorado State 17 … Actual: No. 18 Colorado 43, Colorado State 35, 2OT
  • Prediction: No. 10 Oregon 40, No. 19 Colorado 17 … Actual: No. 10 Oregon 42, No. 19 Colorado 6

  • 2022 Predictions … (Straight up: 10-2; Against the Spread: 9-3) …
  • 2021 Predictions … (Straight up: 9-3; Against the Spread: 7-5) … 


16 Replies to ““T.I.P.S.” for CU v. No. 8 USC”

  1. I could say the Buffs will try the same scheme they did vs. Oregon, get the same turd result, and this will be another blowout. But I’m not gonna say that. And I hope they don’t do that.

    Buffs will re-focus on the running game, with a deeper RB corp, and some new wrinkles. It will keep the USC DL/LB guessing, give Shadeur some more time, open up some play action. It will be a shoot-out, Buffs competitive but in the end come up short. USC 40-something and CU 30-something.

  2. I think ASU was USC’s wake up call and with the hype around the Buffs, the national audience and all, USC will bring it. USC 55-Buffs 13, I hope I’m so wrong, it would be good to be wrong.

    Does reverse psychology work on the universe?

    1. Thinking the same
      The Buff’s weaknesses have been well identified and as earache says its the dudes and not the scheme….right now. Unless Lewis can put in a new look. It doesnt have to be flea flickers etc but changes in formations, routes, blocking patterns and other misdirection that are not on the past game film it might help keep USC off balance enough to keep the game closer. They have to be ready to make game time adjustments to counter those those changes when Riley does the same.
      Ditto for Kelly. He is going to have to anticipate and call the perfect game. where and when to blitz being the most important thing in this game.
      ASU managed to keep it close for 3 qtrs. If we cant do the same I will be disappointed. I havent watched a USC game since Riley got there but I watched a few when he was at OK and he is a wizard at play calling and design.

      1. Look at that. The planets and stars align. There’s a blue moon. And, we agree! That must mean our Buffs can steal a win this weekend.

        It’s the dudes. Mostly. And, the ones who make the fewest mistakes, usually win, all else being equal (which we know it’s kinda not, at least in the trenches and linebackers, in this one).

        I’d really like to see the ground game get some traction. It’s odd that last year they actually ran the ball better than this year.

        As to changing formations, routes and blocking patterns? I’d love to see someone ask Deion why they don’t do that during the season, to “throw off” the opposition. Would be hilarious.

        Go Buffs!

        1. If its just the dudes, dude, Buffs lose. Buffs beat TCU without the dudes (surprise attack)but almost lost to CSU without the dudes. (Nebraska doesnt have the dudes either)
          And by dudes I mean the lines for all you skateboarders out there
          The surprise is gone. Gonna need a few more, from the coach to keep this one close.
          And by dudes I mean the lines for all you skateboarders out there
          Dude out.

          1. Nah. It’s all installing new schemes midseason. Or better yet, wasting time practicing stuff that you’ll use for that special occasion. After all, lanning said they ran that fake punt like 49 times in practice. Dudemanbro.

            Go Buffs

          1. Vanilla:
            having no special or extra features; ordinary or standard

            Buffs………… Better……..get it to……………….. Raspberry Ripple

          1. It’s possible. He had a good qb, and their team is definitely not the same this year, at least to a very casual onlooker.

            Go Buffs

  3. Well I’ll go counter here, CU42 USC 41, maybe USC has changed there ways but some games they just think they can win by showing up. They saw the beat down CU took and they may overlook CU as a legit opponent. Not only that, Oregon looked like they were motivating themselves for the National Championship last week. Not sure USC has the same idea. Probably not, but who knows…

  4. “It’s not a bunch of surprises in football, it just comes down to, can your team execute much better than they can? And they (Oregon) executed much better than we could. So it is not a bunch of surprises but now you have to adapt and adjust and make sure that we’re forward thinking and not reacting. I hate being reactive. I like to be proactive.” Deion Sanders

    So, the Buffs gonna pull out the fumble rooskie, flea flicker, hail mary and fake punt on the first series? Doubt it.

    And, unfortunately, with few surprises, their talent likely wins out over ours. But? That’s why they play the games.

    I’m just hoping for a solid, competitive game with another surprising upset. If they get boat raced again? So what? That’s what is mostly expected, so anything better is playing with house money. Still.

    And, it’s another showcase of Boulder in the fall, and it don’t get much better than that.

    The 300 lb dudes who run 4.8 40s are comin’. Best believe.

    Go Buffs! Steal that upset.

  5. CU 21 USC 49. Brutal schedule but our guys just need to stay with and belive in what CP is doing.
    GO BUFFS!🦬🖤💛🖤💛🖤🦬

  6. USC 49 CU 17

    O and D lines will be dominated. Same story. Maybe faster start for Buffs this time, perhaps some sluggishness for USC given early start time, then the deficiencies we have seen will result in another lopsided defeat. Until the line problems are addressed on both sides of the ball, we will not be competitive with top teams. Here is to hoping USC has an inexplicably bad day including turnovers. Go Buffs!!

  7. Head over heart, but I do think we will see improvement. And just not too impressed with the Trojans’ defense.

    USC-45, CU 31

    ATS 3-1, SU 3-1

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