Preview: Colorado at USC
Before the Buffaloes face this week’s opponent, they also face the numerical facts. Colorado is winless (0-6) all-time versus USC, and 0-3 in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The Trojans have held the Buffs to 7 points or less in 4 of 6 meetings, winning by an average score of 30-7. The teams first met in 1927, when the Trojans cruised to a 46-7 victory. The last meeting saw Matt Barkley throw a school-record 6 touchdown passes, as USC drubbed Colorado 42-17 in Boulder.
Colorado will enter the weekend as a 41-point underdog. And as we continue on the path of “murder by numbers”, the odds are further explained. The Buffs have won just a single game this season (1-5), and just 4 of the last 19. Colorado has also won just twice in its last 26 road games, and holds an all-time record of 2-14 in the state of California.
Colorado Buffaloes (1-5)
National Rank: none
Last week: Arizona State 51, Colorado 17
There are few in the country possessing a worse offense than the Buffaloes. At a scoring average of 20.83 per game, Colorado ranks 103rd nationally and last in conference. Jordan Webb leads the Pac 12’s least efficient passing attack, connecting on just 56.5 percent of his passes. The quarterback threw for 345 yards in the Buffs’ lone victory over Washington State, but has thrown for less than 200 yards in each of the team’s five losses.
The failure to operate begins up front, where you find an offensive line that has surrendered an FBS high 27 sacks through 6 games. It’s a unit that also fails to provide a push for the nation’s 105th ranked rushing attack. Christian Powell provides an example of the team’s struggle to advance in the ground game, as his 294 yards represent the team lead in rushing this season. The freshman missed last week’s game with a deep thigh bruise, but is expected to play against USC.
Colorado has just 9 receiving touchdowns for 2012, led by senior tight end Nick Kasa (3). Freshman Nelson Spruce leads the team with 27 receptions, followed by sophomore Tyler McCullouch.
Though the offensive totals are embarrassing, the numbers appear more woeful on defense. The Buffs are a conference low when it comes to defending the pass (312.67), limiting pass efficiency (162.10), and keeping points off the board (41.33). Those categories contribute to a Colorado rank of 113th nationally in total defense, as it allows season opponents an average of 494 yards per game. The unit allowed Arizona State to chew 593 total yards in last Thursday’s loss.
USC Trojans (5-1)
National rank: 11 (AP), 9 (Coaches), 10 (BCS)
Last week: USC 24, Washington 14
Somewhere along the way, The Trojan offense underwent a transformation that makes it appear far different than the one visualized over the summer. USC is now powered by the run, with the passing game doing just enough to keep defenses honest.
Matt Barkley threw for 300 or more yards six times in 2011. He has accomplished that just twice in the six games of 2012. His 16 touchdowns equal last season’s production at the midway point, with interceptions increasing by two (6). The greatest increase comes through lack of protection, with the quarterback sacked 8 times already this year, which matches the total for all of last season.
Lane Kiffin told reporters that he ran more against Washington to keep his quarterback off the ground, which is a subtle way of calling out his offensive line. The battle continues between Aundrey Walker and Max Tuerk, with the Trojans, and Barkley, continuing to feel the effects of Matt Kalil’s departure.
When Silas Redd announced his decision to come to Los Angeles, no one could measure the importance of his presence. After six weeks, he’s easily one of the offensive MVPs, and may be the difference between the Trojans reaching midseason with a single loss and possibly having several. The junior has rushed for 570 yards and 6 touchdowns, at an average of 5.6 yards per carry. His lowest output was 17 yards in the loss to Stanford, which only aids in recognizing the value of his production.
Robert Woods will enter Saturday’s game just 5 receptions shy of breaking the USC school-record. He caught 9 passes for 130 yards in the blowout of Colorado a year ago. He currently has 36 receptions on the season, after catching 5 against Washington last week.
USC is now fifth in the nation in sacks (22), recording them at a rate of 3.67 per game. Morgan Breslin (1.17) is the second-best pass rusher in conference, trailing only Oregon State’s Scott Crichton (1.60), who also leads the nation. The pressure up front allows linebackers and defensive backs to roam more freely, and Dion Bailey continues to cash in. The linebacker’s 4 interceptions tie him at fourth in the nation, while he also places second on the team in tackles. The Trojans have 11 interceptions through six games, with Josh Shaw grabbing his second last week. It’s highly probable that Shaw will get the start at cornerback on Saturday, after entering the game for Torin Harris in Seattle.
Analysis: This game is one-sided on paper and should translate to the same on the field. Colorado has nothing to counter what USC does on either side of the ball. The Buffs are too young, less talented, and being cast into a hostile environment. This visit is best viewed as a recruiting trip for a building program that is desperate to herd some of California’s top performers to the state of Colorado. There are no bells ringing or sirens sounding an upset alert, as the only matter that remains is whether the Buffs can keep it respectable or suffer another embarrassing loss.
X-Factor– Penalties-Colorado may not have the personnel to help itself, but it does face a USC team that has helped others. The Trojans are the most penalized team in college football, after being flagged 60 times in 6 games for a loss of 470 yards.
All-Time Series: USC leads 6-0
Streak: USC has won 6
Last Meeting: USC 42, Colorado 17 (Boulder, CO)
- Colorado is facing its first ranked opponent of the season
- USC’s average margin of victory over Colorado is 23 points
- Colorado has lost 18 consecutive road games versus ranked opponents
- Matt Barkley (96) is 4 TD passes shy of establishing a new school and conference career record (Matt Leinart, 99)
- The Colorado roster consists of 34 players from California. USC has no players from Colorado.