The Colorado Buffaloes have never beaten the USC Trojans. The Buffs have gone 0-8 against them in the Pac-12 era and they never beat them in five games before 2011 conference realignment. CU takes on USC on Friday (7:00 pm, ESPN2) and are two-touchdown underdogs at home.
Throughout this one-sided rivalry, there’s been a sad joke about USC quarterbacks torching Colorado. Their starting quarterback sets a school record against CU then ties that record the following year, then his backup breaking it shortly thereafter — things of that nature. Colorado doesn’t have many Pac-12 traditions, but getting shredded by USC quarterbacks is right up there with losing on rainy nights.
2011: USC (6-2) at Colorado (1-8), 42-17
In the thick of the Embree era, the Buffs were not at all a good team. Colorado’s best defender was Darragh O’Neill, the punter. Jason Espinoza was a receiver by trade but injuries necessitated that he start at cornerback opposite freshman Greg Henderson. That injury-ravaged secondary had to stop Robert Woods and Marqise Lee, who had two First All-American selections and one Biletnikoff Award between them. The Buffs stood no chance and Matt Barkley, who was a Heisman contender at the time, threw for a school-record 6 touchdown passes. On the bright side, Espinoza had an interception in this game.
2012: Colorado (1-5) at USC (5-1), 50-6
Ignore that the Buffs scored just 6 points. Jordan Webb was throwing passes, so, yeah. The Trojans dropped a 50 spot because, look at that, Barkley, Woods and Lee are all still there. Barkley tied the school-record with 6 touchdown passes, four of which were to Woods.
2013: USC (8-3) at Colordo (4-6), 47-29
As the Trojans moved on from Matt Barkley to Cody Kessler, there was one game that they beat up Colorado with their rushing attack. In this game, Javorious “Buck” Allen broke out for 145 yards and 3 touchdowns. The only positive is that CU could finally score on USC now that Sefo Liufau was starting at quarterback and throwing to Paul Richardson and Nelson Spruce.
2014: Colorado (2-4) at USC (4-2), 56-28
The good news: Robert Woods and Marqise Lee were playing in the NFL. The bad news: USC replaced them with Nelson Agholor and JuJu Smith-Schuster. They combined for 232 yards and four touchdowns on just 10 total catches. Cody Kessler threw for 7 touchdown passes, breaking Barkley’s record. The hilarious part is that Kessler wasn’t nearly as good as Barkley, yet he not only trashed CU, but set records against a secondary featuring future pros Chidobe Awuzie, Tedric Thompson and Ken Crawley.
2015: USC (6-3) at Colorado (4-6), 27-24
For the first time since the Dizon-Wheatley days, the Buffs had a half-decent defense in 2015. The Buffs mostly bottled up Kessler and CU raced out to an early 17-3 lead. But Liufau badly hurt his foot in the second quarter and Cade Apsay was thrust into action. There are a handful of games Colorado would have won with a healthy Liufau, and this is the prime pre-2016 example.
2016: Colorado (4-1) at USC (2-3), 21-17
Speaking of Liufau, he had been injured two games prior against Michigan (which they could have won with him healthy). . Freshmen quarterbacks Steven Montez and Sam Darnold each started their second career games; the former was rattled by a disruptive USC defensive line, while the latter flashed his absurd potential. Colorado kept it close with four forced turnovers, but Darnold still threw for 358 yards and three scores. This game did feature a long touchdown pass from Bryce Bobo to Phillip Lindsay, which out of context was one of the best plays of that incredible 2016 season.
2017: USC (8-2) at Colorado (5-5), 38-24
The Buffs entered this game hoping to finally beat USC to gain bowl eligibility. Despite Juwann Winfree and Bryce Bobo each having standout performances, this game went the same as every other USC game. The only break from tradition was that USC ran all over the Buffs as Ronald Jones slashed his way to 142 yards and a touchdown. Darnold was nearly perfect and threw for two scores and ran for another, plus Montez threw a pick-6 to Ajene Harris.
2018: Colorado (5-0) at USC (3-2), 31-20
At this point in 2018, the Buffs were 5-0 and ranked 19th in the AP Poll. USC was struggling as freshman quarterback JT Daniels struggled to adjust to major college football. Drew Lewis and Evan Worthingon each had interceptions, but the Buffs still lost because their secondary was undermanned. Daniels was erratic, but it doesn’t take a great quarterback to loft it up to Michael Pittman and Tyler Vaughns. The two caught three touchdown passes in the second quarter, then a Montez pick-6 — thrown to Ajene Harris, just like in 2017 — made it 28-7 at halftime. Colorado attempted the comeback, but it was too large of a deficit.
2019: USC (4-3) at Colorado (3-4)
USC has been shaky in 2019 as Daniels, Kedon Slovis and Matt Fink have all played at quarterback, but it’s probably going to be more of the same. Colorado’s secondary is ravaged by injuries and transfers. They are relying on an injured Delrick Abrams, freshman K.J. Trujillo, injured Mikial Onu and Derrion Rakestraw — and that’s just the four starters. Colorado will be defending Pittman, Vaughns and Amon-Ra St. Brown with what might be the worst pass defense in the Pac-12. If they get stops, it will be because of turnovers or Slovis playing terribly. Maybe, just maybe, the Buffs will score enough to hang around, but it looks like USC vs. Colorado will follow tradition.