(23) USC (8-3) at Colorado (4-6)|
Saturday, November 23, 9:30 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Phil Neuffer, Associate College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: Riding the high off an upset of Stanford last weekend, the USC
Trojans will try to avoid a letdown as they visit the Colorado Buffaloes in
Pac-12 action at Folsom Field.
The Trojans have risen from the proverbial ashes this season. With a 20-17
victory over the then No. 5 Cardinal on Saturday the Trojans have now won
four straight games and are in the national rankings, where they sit at No.
23. USC's turnaround is in no small way connected to the firing of Lane Kiffin
at the end of September. Since then the Trojans have gone 5-1 under head coach
Ed Orgeron, with the lone loss a 14-10 setback at Notre Dame. The Trojans are
8-3 overall and at 5-2 in league action are sitting just a game behind Arizona
State for the Pac-12 South Division lead.
"I think Coach O is very unique. There's no one else in the country that's
like him that I've seen," USC quarterback Cody Kessler said of his head coach.
"We absolutely love him. We'd run through a brick wall for him. He has that
look in his eye that you can tell that when he talks to you he really does
care. I gave him a hug after the game and I don't know if he'd want me saying
this but I saw his eyes water up. It's awesome when you play with someone who
has that same passion."
Colorado isn't coming off nearly as impressive a win as the Trojans. Last
weekend the Buffaloes hosted California in a battle of the final winless teams
in conference play. Colorado finally got in the win column with a resounding,
41-24, victory over the Golden Bears. The win ended a three-game losing streak
for the Buffaloes, who are clinging to hopes of bowl eligibility with two
games to go. Colorado is 4-6 overall and would need an upset over USC and a
win in Salt Lake City against Utah next week to get to the necessary six wins.
"I still think we can win some more; they're going to be real tough, against
real good football teams. But, now there is a little bit more to play for,"
Colorado head coach Mike MacIntyre said.
The Trojans have never lost to Colorado in seven previous meetings. Last year,
Matt Barkley threw six touchdown passes and completed 19-of-20 passes to lead
the Trojans to a 50-6 rout of the Buffaloes.
USC's turnaround hasn't really been built on its offense. The Trojans are a
rather mediocre offensive team in comparison to the rest of the Pac-12 as they
are scoring 28.2 points per game, while ranking ninth in the league in total
offense (394.3 ypg).
Kessler has led the attack for the Trojans by being more of a game-manager
than a game-changer. Kessler threw for 288 yards and a touchdown on 67.6
percent passing against Stanford for his fourth straight game with a
completion percentage above 60 percent. On the year, Kessler has thrown for
2,265 yards and 13 scores, while completing nearly 65 percent of his pass
attempts. Kessler has also made sure to keep his mistakes to a minimum with
just six interceptions, only one of which has come in the last four games.
Nelson Agholor continued his reign as the go-to option for Kessler against
Stanford, as he totaled 104 yards on eight receptions. Agholor has had only
two 100-yard efforts this season but that is the most of any Trojan. In total
Nelson is tied for the team lead in receptions (44), while amassing the most
yards on the team (751). Marqise Lee has also brought in 44 passes this season
for 604 yards and two scores. His numbers are far off the pace he set in
winning the Biletnikoff Award during last year's campaign.
The Trojans really struggled to get much going on the ground against the
stingy Stanford run defense on Saturday. USC had just 23 yards on 27 carries
in the contest. Leading rusher Tre Madden (682 yards, three TDs) returned to
the field after missing the previous week but had only 11 yards on six
carries. Javorius Allen (431 yards, eight TDs) had back-to-back 100-yard
efforts before his 26-yard outing against the Cardinal.
Where Orgeron has excelled has been on the defensive side of the ball. USC is
second in the conference in total defense (338.8 ypg). USC gets great pressure
and is second in the league in tackles for loss and third in sacks (30). Devon
Kennard (8.0 sacks) leads the pass rush, while Su'a Cravens (43 tackles, four
INTs) and Dion Bailey (52 tackles, four INTs) are tough to deal with in the
Offense has been a real weakness for the Buffaloes this season as they rank
last in the Pac-12 in total yards (380.6 ypg) and second to last in points
scored (25.9 ppg).
However, the Buffaloes are fortunate enough to have one of the most lethal
receiving threats in the country. Paul Richardson (71 receptions, 1,201 yards,
nine TDs) is inching his way towards the all-time single season receiving
record for the Buffaloes. Richardson has 41 catches of 10 or more yards and 17
of more than 20. The rest of the Buffaloes have 45 and 14, respectively,
combined. Nelson Spruce (45 receptions, 532 yards, two TDs) has gotten the
bulk of the work behind Richardson.
Sefu Liufau has gotten better and better each week under center. Against
California the freshman signal caller threw for a career-high 364 yards on 23-
of-36 passing while also managing three touchdowns passes and a single
interception. Overall, Liufau has been consistent in completing passes, doing
so at a 63.4 percent rate, but the production could still be improved. Liufau
has totaled 1,350 yards and eight touchdowns to six interceptions in six games
The tandem of Christian Powell (509 yards, three TDs) and Michael Adkins (434
yards, five TDs) have led the Buffaloes' ground game. Powell was the more
effective back in terms of yardage against CAlifornia as he had 60 yards and a
score on 18 carries. Adkins, as he has all season, was the more effective
rusher as he averaged 4.3 yards per carry, though he had only nine attempts.
Colorado's offensive struggles have been paired with plenty of issues on the
defensive side of the ball. The Buffaloes rank ahead of only California in
both scoring (38.8 ypg) and total defense (477.9 ypg). Addison Gillam (99
tackles, 3.0 sacks) has enjoyed a strong freshman season for the unit, while
Chidera Uzo-Diribe (4.0 sacks) gives the team at least one other strong pass
The Trojans have really bought into Orgeron's philosophy and the results have
been obvious. Assuming they continue to play tight defense, the Trojans will
be able to squeeze out enough from Kessler and company to keep their winning
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: USC 34, Colorado 13
11/20 10:47:38 ET