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Breaking down the Buffaloes big matchup against USC

Slack chat discusses Saturday’s game.

NCAA Football: Southern California at Colorado Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Colorado Buffaloes (5-0) will head to L.A. to take on the USC Trojans (3-2) on Saturday night. The Buffs enter as 7-point underdogs, but they have a great chance to extend their undefeated season and take a commanding lead over the Pac-12 South. We discuss the matchup below.

Jeff Hauser: Alright guys, here we go with a week 7 matchup between the Buffs and Trojans. What’s your initial thoughts going into CU’s first conference road game of the season?

Sam Metivier I’m nervous. I think Colorado is the better overall team -- they’re more balanced and have shown more consistency and poise -- but I’m worried about USC coming off a bye week. If Clay Helton has been getting the team rested and focused on a ranked opponent, I think CU will lose a physical game wherein they struggle some with a pumped up opponent. But if not, the Buffs should roll to a great road win.

Jack Barsch: CU has played in a more hostile environment already this year (Nebraska) and played more physical teams this year. So I feel quite confident that they can handle the mental part of the game. But if the Trojans “wake up”, it might not be pretty.

Anthony Kazmierczak: Honestly, I’m probably in the minority, but I like our chances on the road against USC a lot better than I liked our chances against ASU at home last Saturday.

Kazmierczak: USC is one of the worst penalized teams in CFB. Couple that with the fact that their secondary is susceptible to giving up the ‘big play’ and I see Laviska Shenault in for a big day.

Metivier: Do you think Shenault will fare well against Iman Marshall? Marshall shut down J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, although Stanford didn’t really need to pass the ball in that grueling game. (That said, Arcega-Whiteside did have 62 yards and Viska is much more versatile than him.)

Barsch: Marshall is a big, physical CB who does well against big, physical receivers. Unfortunately for him, Laviska is much more than that.

Hauser: I like CU’s chances to get their first-ever win over USC at the Coliseum because this USC team is lacking consistency due to inexperience and injury. I think CU’s offense is going to have long drives with many first downs. When bothers me is not knowing what adjustment Clay Helton is going to make coming out of the bye week.

Kazmierczak: Absolutely. Chiaverini finds a way to get Shenault the ball in multiple different formations. Even if they do focus on him, we have other weapons (K.D. Nixon, Tony Brown, Jay MacIntyre, etc.) that could have big games. Remember what Juwann Winfree did to them last year

Metivier: With those player you mentioned, CU does has depth at WR that Stanford doesn’t really have around Arcega-Whiteside. They struggled to defend Wazzu’s pass attack and that could happen again if they can’t cover everyone at once. They may be especially susceptible if they can’t get a pass rush (one of their weaknesses) and Steven Montez picks them apart.

Hauser: Shenault is the obvious go-to for Steven Montez, who’s the “next man up “ for the Buffs offense on Saturday?

Metivier: I would say off first glance, the secondary options will be KD Nixon, Tony Brown and Juwann Winfree if he’s healthy. But if CU has an early lead and can control the line of scrimmage, Travon McMillian should be featured heavily. On that note, I have really no idea what to expect from CU’s offensive line. They were a disaster against Nebraska, but have looked great against UCLA and Arizona State. Can they keep that up against USC?

Hauser: McMillian needs to move the ball for the Buffs to have success on the Trojans. Although, I would love to see Winfree return from being out the past two weeks and have another breakout game against USC.

Kazmierczak: I agree with Jeff. If we can get Travon going, it’ll just open up the passing game. I have a feeling Nixon is in for a HUGE game.

Barsch: It has to be Travon McMillian. Has to be. Give that man touches, run the ball, string drives together. The key difference, Sam, is Allen’s own Will Sherman. He has stepped in at LT and really delivered the goods. Starting Sherman also freed up Josh Kaiser to play RT and RG as needed, which freed up Tim Lynott to be a finisher guard on the longer drives. His emergence has allowed the rest of the personnel up front to thrive.

Kazmierczak: CU’s offensive line deserves a lot of credit. Much improved from last year.

Hauser: The offensive line is making improvements week after week. I hope they can keep the upward trend going into LA.

Barsch: USC is big and athletic up front, but they are young. And they have been pushed around this year, more so than usual. The opportunity if there.

Metivier: The run game would also stand to benefit if USC middle linebacker Cameron Smith is injured or hampered. He’s been dealing with a hamstring issue this week and is 50/50 to play. (hampered by a hammy, lol). What about on the defensive side of the ball? What are the matchups and schemes to look out for?

Hauser: With Colorado going back to Cali (RIP Biggie), and being the last undefeated west of the Mississippi, the national media has been chattering loudly about the Buffs. Some good, but mostly uninformed. What has stuck out in your minds as garbage talk about CU this week?

Barsch: On defense, the Buffs need to watch for the long ball early and often. They got torched by ASU int he 1st half, and Daniels LOVES to chuck it deep to Amon-Ra St. Brown. Nick Fisher needs to play deep centerfield most of the game, which is unconventional for this defense.

Metivier: If Fisher plays deep, will the Buffs suffer against the run?

Barsch: I mean, if all goes to plan, no. They’ll be more susceptible to routes in the middle of the field or TE seams, but the front seven should bottle up most of the runs. I am very concerned about Stephen Carr. That guy is lightning with the ball.

Metivier: And USC hasn’t really used their TEs at all. Do you think Carr will be the running back of choice with Aca’Cedric Ware and Vavae Malepeai also there?

Hauser: I think it will be who’s hot. Carr, Ware and Malepeai have all played in different roles this season. Ware has the most carries, but perhaps Carr will have a better start. Malepeai has the most TD’s and is a threat for short runs.

Metivier: What does CU need to do to stop the run?

Hauser: CU’s corps of linebackers are vital to stopping USC’s runs. The defensive line will play tough, but guys like Rick Gamboa, Drew Lewis and Nate Landman are key.

Barsch: I am so excited to see Nate Landman this week. As he said earlier, he owes the team a game and a half. He is going to come out with his hair on fire.

Hauser: So, how do you guys see this game playing out? What’s your prediction for CU-USC?

Barsch: The spread right now is 7 points to the Trojans, and I think that is a little exaggerated but accurate. CU needs to start fast and get early stops, something they haven’t been able to do. I think USC pulls just enough together to win, but I’m not confident in that prediction at all.

Metivier: Colorado will come out be able to hang around in the first half before pulling away in the second. I think CU will take away USC’s passing attack and it will be a slow, low-scoring first half. Then CU will adjust and win the game at the line of scrimmage.

Hauser: Many people have given USC a pass and continue to overlook CU. Expect hard fought game from both teams. CU rolls to their best start since 1994. Colorado 42, USC 27.

Metivier: That’s a lot of points, Jeff. I’m going with CU 24, USC 20.