The Colorado Buffaloes and USC Trojans are both hungry and hoping to make an impact in the Pac-12 South race. Both programs have started the season with disappointment and turmoil and hope that there is still time to turn things around.
Shortly after the firing of head coach Clay Helton, the Trojans were able to rebound and capture a 45-14 victory over Washington State. But the good times didn’t last for interim coach Donte Williams after USC surrendered a 45-27 loss to Oregon State. To add insult to injury, it was the Beavers first win at the Coliseum in 61 years.
The Trojans (2-2) can’t afford to slide another game back in conference play, especially with two ranked non-conference opponents (at No. 9 Notre Dame and at home against No. 13 BYU) remaining on the second half of their schedule.
As for the Buffs (1-3), there’s has been no luck for them to start the 2021 campaign. They opened the season with a 35-7 victory over Northern Colorado but have been pushing the offense towards the gas station ever since, with 20 combined points in the last 12 quarters of play. Colorado remains winless in Pac-12 play after a 35-13 loss to Arizona State last week.
CU has suffered consistently at the hands of the Trojans, going all the way back to their first meeting in 1927. Colorado will look to end the 14-game losing skid after keeping the previous four contests relatively close.
For the Buffs to be successful they’ll have to get the offense going after it has been stuck for the last three games. Not only has Darrin Chiaverini’s unit been stagnant, it has been historically bad. In the last three games, CU has fallen to dead last for points and yards per contest in FBS.
If you add in the season opener to that equation, they’re averaging 4.1 yards per play, which is ahead of SEC basement dwellers, Vanderbilt, with 4.0. The traditional “air-raid” look for Chiaverini is non-existent this year and replaced with no real execution to speak of on offense. Freshman passer Brendon Lewis averaging 85.0 yards per game. Daniel Arias leads the team with a total of 45 yards and no touchdowns.
That means Colorado’s defense, behind new coordinator Chris Wilson, has been forced to pick up the slack. And while the effort has mostly been in a “playing from behind” scenario, the Buffs have played lights out to attempt to keep them in ballgames. Linebacker Nate Landman continues to show why he’s a leader, along with Carson Wells off the edge. The duo will add another senior into the mix with former All-Pac-12 defensive lineman Mustafa Johnson returning this week after going undrafted in last April’s NFL Draft. Johnson’s a huge addition for the Colorado defense.
Kedon Slovis has been relatively ineffective under center for the Trojans. However, one of the most outstanding performances of his career came against the Buffaloes two years ago. Jaxson Dart, who gave them a four touchdown showing in relief of Slovis two weeks ago, has been ruled out after surgery to repair his torn meniscus.
Slovis has completed 64.3 percent of his passes for 842 yards, four touchdowns with four interceptions. Three of those picks came last week by a feisty Oregon State defensive attack. USC has depth at the wide receiver position, starting with star Drake London, who currently leads the nation with an average of 135.0 yards per game. Tahj Washington and Gary Bryant Jr. have contributed, but London is by far Slovis’ go-to option.
The Trojans also have two rushers splitting a majority of the carries out of the backfield. Keaontay Ingram and Vavae Malepeai have combined for 405 yards. Ingram is tied with London to lead USC with three touchdowns a piece.
Given USC’s offense troubles lately— and if Colorado’s defense can once again play superb— expect this game to be closer than expected, especially if CU’s secondary can limit London’s yards after catch.
From the desk of Dave Plati
Congratulations, Michael Westbrook: “Officials from the National Football Foundation will be on hand for the on-campus recognition of Westbrook’s December induction into the College Football Hall of Fame; Westbrook, CU’s who will become CU’s ninth member of the Hall, will be honored on the field between the first and second quarters.”
No Points To Start. “Through four games, neither CU or the opponent has scored on the game’s opening possession (and neither team did on the first drive of the second half until the Arizona State game, when both teams did it: CU marched 75 yards in eight plays to pull to within 14-10, and then ASU returned the favor by driving 71 yards in six plays to go back up by 11.”
Colorado welcomes USC into Boulder on Saturday, Oct. 2. Kickoff is scheduled at Noon MT from Folsom Field. The earliest start time for the Buffs and Trojans in their series history.
TV: Pac-12 Network
Radio: 850 KOA (Mark Johnson & Gary Barnett)
Odds: -8 USC
Weather: 63°, Sunny