USC vs. Colorado prediction and game preview. Projecting who wins Saturday afternoon’s matchup between the Trojans and Buffaloes.
When: Saturday, Oct. 8 – 4:00 p.m. ET
Where: Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, California
TV Broadcast: Pac-12 Network
Surely, if he could, Clay Helton would love to turn that season-opening, 52-6 loss to Alabama into an exhibition game, but sadly for Trojans fans, it’s stuck on the record. USC was able to avoid a three-game losing streak last weekend when it took down Arizona State, 41-20. That was a big conference victory for the Trojans, who were 0-2 in Pac-12 play following losses to Stanford and Utah.
So far, it’s been a solid season for Mike McIntyre’s Buffaloes. They’ve won four of their first five games with the only loss being in Ann Arbor to No. 4 Michigan. The Buffaloes responded by taking down Oregon in Eugene before beating Oregon State this past weekend, 47-6.
The all-time series between these two Pac-12 programs has been completely one-sided, as one-sided as it can possibly get. USC has won all 10 matchups against Colorado. In last year’s meeting, the Trojans snuck by the Buffaloes in Boulder, 27-24.
What To Know About USC
It seems as though Helton made the right choice by benching Max Browne for redshirt freshman Sam Darnold. The young quarterback lit up Arizona State last weekend. Darnold completed 22-of-33 passes for 352 yards and three touchdowns. All three of those touchdown throws went to JuJu Smith-Schuster, and that’s been one of the biggest positives with the new starting quarterback for USC. When given the targets, Smith-Schuster can be one of the best receivers in the nation.
Justin Davis is a capable ball carrier, too. He’s averaging 6.3 yards per carry for USC, and he torched the Sun Devils for 123 yards and a touchdown on only 14 carries. With Ronald Jones and Aca’Cedric Ware there to spell him and change the pace, the Trojans have a solid backfield.
What to Know About Colorado
Yet another game without Sefo Liufau has ended with a win. Okay, so it’s only been two in a row, but Steven Montez has been solid at quarterback in Liufau’s absence for Colorado. He torched Oregon State for 293 yards and three touchdowns on 19-of-27 passing. Montez found Shay Fields seven times for 169 yards, and the wide receiver reeled in all three touchdown throws.
The Buffaloes were able to move the ball on the ground, too. Phillip Lindsay fell 10 yards short of the century mark last week, but he did manage to find his way into the end zone once on his 16 carries. Kyle Evans was right behind him with 15 carries for 43 yards. Montez also has the ability to run, though. He’s averaging 5.8 yards per carry.
Offense: USC – It seems as though the Trojans have been rejuvenated by Darnold. We know Smith-Schuster has, and that’s why USC gets the nod.
Defense: Colorado – The Buffaloes are allowing 290.4 yards of total offense per game. That’s good enough for No. 13 in the nation. USC ranks No. 53, allowing 376.2 yards per game.
Special Teams: USC – The Trojans get this because Adoree’ Jackson is capable of housing it every time he touches the ball.
Coaching: Colorado – The jury is still out on Clay Helton. He made the right call by switching to Darnold, but one could argue he should have seen that from the beginning. Meanwhile, MacIntyre has his guys playing well without their starting quarterback.
Matchup To Watch
Steven Montez vs. USC defense
Montez has shown his ability to throw the deep ball, but he’s also taken advantage of Cover 1 looks in the past two weeks. If USC mixes in some Cover 2 and Cover 3 looks, it could force Montez to live with the underneath throws. And if he tries to go long with help over the top, Montez could be looking a couple of interceptions. If Montez does connect deep, and Colorado gets into the red zone, the Trojans have to keep an eye on the slants and the read option. Montez can move, and he isn’t afraid to run with the ball — especially in the red zone.
Spread: USC -5
USC vs. Colorado Prediction
Montez is going to have another solid performance. He and Fields will get the ball rolling, and the Buffaloes will get out to an early lead, but it won’t last long. Darnold will lead the charge for USC and hit Smith-Schuster for a big touchdown. That will be the first of a couple of touchdowns for Smith-Schuster. The Buffaloes and Trojans will battle back and forth for a while. The Colorado defense will slow USC’s running game, but it won’t slow down Darnold. Montez will be picked off once, and that will end up being the difference in the game. USC wins this one at home.
USC vs. Colorado Score Prediction: USC 31, Colorado 27