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Colorado needs to get physical to beat USC

The Buffaloes look to rebound as the Trojans come to town.

Syndication: The Coloradoan Lucas Boland/The Coloradoan / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Buffs return home this week to face what could be their toughest test of the season. Eighth-ranked USC comes to town this Saturday, as Coach Prime and his squad look to bounce back after a tough loss to the Ducks. The Buffs are 0-16 against the Trojans, but look to finally get their first victory before both teams jump ship to new conferences. Colorado is going in as 21.5 point underdogs and look to pull up a massive upset.

Luckily for the Buffs, Arizona State may have just provided a blueprint on how to beat the Trojans. The Sun Devils gave USC a run for their money last week in Tempe. ASU hung in for the entire game, but ended up losing 42-28. Arizona State utilized two key tactics against Lincoln Riley and his team, physicality and trickery. If the Buffs could successfully employ those two strategies, it could be an exciting night at Folsom Field.

The first important thing that Colorado needs to do to beat the Trojans is be very physical on the offensive front. USC’s defense is relatively small, meaning they’re very susceptible to being bulldozed at the line of scrimmage. They had a lot of trouble tackling ASU fullback Cam Skattebo last week, as he was running over USC players all game long.

In order to take advantage of the Trojans’ weakness, Colorado is going to need to establish a run game. CU’s offensive coordinator Sean Lewis and the guys have had a lot of trouble on the ground these first four games. If CU can put a big and physical running back up against USC’s defensive front, they may fare much better this week. Running backs Kavosiey Smoke and Sy’veon Wilkerson may be the Buffs’ key to success in that regard. Smoke and Wilkerson are Colorado’s biggest RBs by a fairly significant margin. Attempting to plow through USC defenders with big bodies may prove to be a sound strategy and something to keep an eye on this Saturday.

The Trojans didn’t handle trick plays well against ASU last week either. The Sun Devils ran quite a few plays out of the wildcat formation and flea-flickers last week, and had pretty significant success with that strategy. Lewis has employed a standard air raid offensive with very little deception and trickery thus far, but it may be time to change that. Colorado is going to need to steal some possessions from USC if they want to come away with a win, and running trick plays could be a great way to do that.

USC’s offense, led by last season’s Heisman winner Caleb Williams, is extremely scary. The unit excels both in the air and on the ground, and can put up points like no one’s business. In order to stay in the game, Colorado’s offense is going to need to find a way to keep up with that scoring. Colorado quarterback Shedeur Sanders needs to be on his A game this week, as well as all of CU’s receivers. Letting points go unanswered could be catastrophic for the Buffs. Thankfully, USC’s defense is not that great. They can get pushed around at the line of scrimmage and aren’t very strong in zone coverage. This week could turn into a shootout between two potential first round quarterbacks.

As for the Buffs’ defense, things have gone from bad to worse. Star cornerback Travis Hunter is still out due to a lacerated liver, but that’s not all. Safety Shilo Sanders is currently questionable with a suspected liver injury as well. This means that Colorado’s secondary could be without their two best players and will be spread extremely thin. A struggling secondary is probably the worst thing to have against USC’s high-flying offense though, which is a cause for concern. Williams and USC have no issue picking apart very talented secondaries at full health. Current USC receiver and former Buff Brenden Rice could have an explosive return to Folsom if the defense doesn’t step up to stop him. The banged and battered Colorado pass defense has all the odds stacked against them this week, but are looking to pull off a miracle. Thankfully, corner Travis Jay is back for the Buffs to help with that effort. Freshman and five star recruit Cormani McClain could even see playtime this week due to the injuries.

Coach Prime and his team are looking to defy the odds once again this week. USC is likely going to be the toughest opponent that the Buffs face this year, and a win would slingshot the team back into the AP Poll. Beating the Trojans is a monumental task, but not one that is impossible. If Colorado can outmuscle the Trojans and keep up with their offense, anything can happen. Fans can watch the two teams face off at 10 a.m. MT this Saturday on Fox.