The Colorado Buffaloes are playing their final home game of the 2016 season by welcoming in the USC Trojans to Folsom Field. To find out more about the Trojans we sat down with the USC blog, Conquest Chronicles. You can see our answers to his questions here.
Cody Kessler has seemingly taken a step back this year, with more interceptions and less efficient passing. Is this because his role has changed or has he actually regressed?
Kessler’s role has stayed the same. I say this every week and we saw it against Arizona, I want to see Kessler throw the ball deep more because USC’s speed in their receiving core is hard to stop. Kessler’s efficiency is down from 69.7% last year to 69.3% this year, which still has him ranked in the top 10. I don’t think Kessler gets enough credit for what he has done at USC and statistically, he will go down as one of the best quarterbacks to every play at USC.
Clay Helton has this team playing harder on the field, in play style and effort. How are his chances looking to take the "interim" off his title, and if not him, then who are the Trojans targeting for HC?
His chances are looking better after each week, the Trojans are 3-1 since he took over and obviously that loss to one of the best teams in the country. Overall, if Helton beats UCLA and USC can get 10 wins, I think he might get the job. As far as other candidates, everything is quiet right now but if Helton struggles down the stretch, I expect USC to have their coach by the middle of January at the latest. And if it’s not Helton, I can tell you it will NOT be someone who coached at USC during the Pete Carroll era.
Leonard Williams is obviously a gargantuan loss on the defensive line (in size and play). How have they recovered from losing such an elite talent and how do the Buffs move the ball on USC?
USC hasn’t recovered on an individual level, but they shift different players around and Delvon Simmons has probably been the best defensive lineman for the Trojans all season. He has 5.5 tackles for a loss and three sacks. Colorado can move the ball by avoiding Su’a Cravens and Cameron Smith, which will be tough to do. USC isn’t a good tackling team besides these two.
Give us an honest assessment of Colorado from an outside perspective. Are we still seen as a doormat? What do you guys think of Coach MacIntyre?
Personally, I think Colorado is on their way up. They have had multiple close calls in the past couple of years and they will be bowl eligible in due time. Obviously the talent level isn’t there and it might not be there for a long time, but just because you don’t have the same level of talent, doesn’t mean you cant win. MacIntrye has really improved this team but they need to close out games.
Who is one player CU fans might know on offense and defense that they should watch for?
I don’t know how much he will do on Friday, but quarterback turned wide receiver Jalen Greene is one player I would watch out for. USC has been running some wide receiver passes in recent weeks and Greene had a long touchdown pass in the Notre Dame game. On defense, I would keep an eye on the USC secondary as a whole.
What do you see happening on Friday night?
USC has too much talent and although I see it being a close game in the first quarter, USC should run away with this one. I’ll say USC wins 51-17.
Three Key Stats
DL Havoc Rate- USC- 3.3%, ranked 105th. CU Power Run Success Rate- 84.1%, ranked 6th.
USC Rushing Offense S+P-119.7, ranked 17th. CU Rushing Defense S+P- 87.8, ranked 106th.
Turnover Margin- USC- +10. CU- +3.
For the second or third straight week, not much lines up in favor of the Buffs. USC is a great team, ranked even higher than Stanford, and Clay Helton has them playing hard. The only conceivable way I can think to pull off an upset is to play like we did for UCLA- control the clock, but finish this time. The DL and DB havoc rate for USC is very poor, meaning they don't get in the backfield often and don't make plays for themselves. Some of this may be attributed to scheme, as the linemen are meant to hold blocks for the linebackers to run free, contributing to their high havoc rate. However, the Buffs have had consistent high end success in the power run game, which means (naturally) they have t move away from it in the red zone in the fourth quarter. *sigh*.
If CU can get the ball rolling, three yards at a time with a whole lot of big boys, they can neutralize the linebackers' speed for the Trojans. However, it's not that easy. USC is very good on offense, specifically running the ball, and as has been covered all year, the Buffs aren't great at stopping it. Ronald Jones will have all the chances in the world to run wild over this team, and I expect a lot of long gains on Friday. The cold might slow him down, but he's still speedy, big, and strong, three things the linebackers for CU are not. I don't see this ending well. So how do you neutralize him? Take away his chances to get the ball. Unfortunately for the Buffs, the Trojans don't the ball over very often, and they seem to get it back rather easily. Their +10 turnover margin should scare every team in the country, because when a team as talented as that gives themselves more chances to win, it's almost impossible to stop them. We'll see what happens, but it is not a rosy picture for CU.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention Larry Zimmer. That man is a treasure and he will be missed next year. I really hope we can send him off well, as fans and as a football team.