Staff Picks: Colorado at USC

The Buffs faced off with the Trojans at Folsom Field on Nov. 13, 2015. (Will McKay/CU Independent File)

In preparation for Saturday’s game in Los Angeles, California, between the No. 19 Colorado Buffaloes and the Southern California trojans, the CU Independent sports section weighed in on the matchup and gave individual score predictions.

Justin Guerriero, Head Sports Editor: This Saturday, the Buffs will get a good test in facing the USC Trojans on the road. Colorado has never defeated Southern California before. In the MacIntyre Era, the Buffs suffered a frustrating loss to USC during the glorious 2016 season and last year lost in Boulder, 38-24.

Overall, I like the Buffaloes’ chances. Colorado is coming off a hard-fought victory against Arizona State while USC had a bye week. The Trojans do boast a solid backfield of three capable tailbacks. Ana’Cedric Ware, Stephen Carr and Vavae Malepeai, all of whom are 6-foot-0, are big powerful backs that all are rushing for over five yards per carry. The key matchup in this game for me will be how well Colorado’s defensive front seven holds against this “Three-Headed Monster” as USC head coach Clay Helton refers to his tailbacks.

Last week vs. ASU, the Buffs gave up 123 yards to Sun Devils’ tailback Eno Benjamin, but ultimately held him in check effectively enough. I suspect to see a similar result this Saturday. USC’s tailbacks may finish the game with healthy stat lines, but I have faith that CU’s defense will hold firm.

Finally, I think junior quarterback Steven Montez will continue to be near flawless and sophomore wideout Laviska Shenault, Jr. will again be hard to cover. Colorado will win a close contest on Saturday.

Final Score: Colorado 31, USC 27

Zoe Collins Rath, Assistant Sports Editor: The Buffs are on a roll since their season began and are looking to go 6-0 this weekend when they are on the road to play the USC Trojans. It has been five weeks since the Buffs have been on the road and their first road trip to Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Nebraska, was an important test for the Buffs. After playing the Huskers, the Buffs showed they should not be underestimated and head coach Mike MacIntyre has said this as well.

Montez and Shenault Jr. have been making magic since the season began and watching them work on offense has been something special. Shenault, Jr. scored all of the touchdowns last weekend against ASU and Montez’s leadership is propelling the Buffs forward.

While the offense is making progress with every game, the defense is not letting up. Although the defense has issues of stopping the run on the edge once it gets into a groove, the Buffs’ defensive 11 are relentless and come up with big plays when needed, especially when the game is close. Against USC the Buffs need to be sharp and come out strong instead of taking their time. In their win over ASU, the Buffaloes played a little sloppy, and even though they won, could have played better.

When they enter the Coliseum, the Buffs are gonna have a tough crowd but as long as they keep their composure and play at the level they know how to play at the Buffaloes will return to Boulder 6-0.

Score Prediction: Colorado 30, USC 28

Max Troderman, Sports Staff Writer: The Buffs will enter the LA Coliseum looking sharp, wearing special gold and white uniforms for the first time in 2018. While the players may look good in the new uniforms, how they play will be a whole different story. The Trojans are coming off a bye week, which one could argue is good or bad thing. I think it is a good thing for the Trojans and USC will be well rested and prepared for CU’s high energy offense.

Having won their last two matchups by putting up 63 points combined from the two games, USC’s offense will be hungry to get back on the field and try to spoil the Buffs’ magical season. The Buffs are coming off a hard fought win last week and could be a little more fatigued than usual. Can the Trojans pounce on the weakened Buffaloes and hand them their first L of the season?

Probably not. Colorado, even though they are ranked No. 19, still don’t command respect from some of the bigger college football organizations and analysts. I think because of this the Buffs are playing with a chip on their shoulder and they have something to prove to all of college football.

If the Buffaloes can execute their game plan and if Montez can stay sharp, then I think CU will pull out the win and move to a clean 6-0.  

Final Score: Colorado 28, USC 24

Scott MacDonald, Sports Staff Writer: There’s a disheartening statistic that hangs over the heads of the Buffs as they stampede into ‘The Coliseum’ on Saturday. As my colleague Justin Guerriero mentioned earlier, Colorado has never beaten USC. Ever. Dating back to 1927, CU is 0-12 against the truculent Trojans. So no, history is not on Colorado’s side.

Even during the miraculous “Rise” season of 2016, when the Buffs looked almost unstoppable, they were still unable to stop Southern Cal. But one can’t help but feel that there’s something special about this year’s Buffs. They’re a resilient, confident club that looks like they’ll be the Pac-12 South champions come season’s end.

It won’t be easy, however. USC is coming off a bye week and will welcome students and their parents in town for the annual parents’ weekend game, providing an even more raucous and rousing crowd than the one that usually watches on at the 93,000-plus capacity Coliseum.

Southern Cal and the crowd at The Coliseum are notorious for being a rowdy bunch. Lucky for Colorado, however, they’ve been there and done that earlier this season, going into Nebraska’s 90,000 “Sea of Red”-filled Memorial Stadium and coming out victorious.

I’m not so much worried about Steven Montez, Laviska Shenault Jr. and Co. having much trouble against USC’s mediocre defense. The Trojans’ D has only had three takeaways this season. On the other hand, the Buffs defense needs to be sharp, particularly against USC’s triple threat running back by committee scheme.

Ware, Carr and Malepeai, the latter of whom leads the committee with six touchdowns through five games, will be tough for the Buffs D-line to contain. For what it’s worth, Colorado’s defense has only allowed a rushing touchdown in two of its five games this season. So there’s that.

This will be a tough contest for Colorado in a very hostile environment. They’ll get it done though. This one will be decided by a James Stefanou field goal in the fourth quarter.

Score Prediction: Colorado 27, USC 24

Alex Pepper, Sports Staff Writer: Despite being ranked No. 19, the Buffs probably feel as if they’re not getting enough respect. Just one of 11 remaining FBS undefeated teams, the FPI (Football Power Index) still isn’t sold on the Buffaloes. Of those 11 teams, the FPI projects CU to perform the worst – the FPI projects the Buffs to go 1-6 in their remaining seven games. Montez and Co. come in at 5-0, but face one of the toughest tests on their schedule this week as they move closer to the meat of their Pac-12 schedule.

Montez has quietly become one of the best passers in the country, boasting the second highest completion percentage of qualified FBS quarterbacks, trailing only Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa in that regard.

Montez will of course have Shenault Jr. lining up wide for him, but questions remain on the status of senior wide receiver Juwann Winfree, who delivered a scintillating performance against USC last year, when he had 5 catches for 163 yards and two touchdowns. Winfree has been out for the last three weeks with an ankle ailment, and his presence would surely beef up an already potent and dynamic offensive attack for the Buffaloes.

Regardless of if Winfree plays, it’s been made clear that Shenault can handle the load. He had all four touchdowns for the Buffs en route to their 28-21 victory against ASU last week, and has had 10+ receptions in four of five games this season.

CU’s “Folsom Fast” offense will get a true test this weekend, as they put their high-octane approach to the test against a 3-2 USC team that’s hungry for a win and playing at home on parents’ weekend. The biggest test should be for the defense, however, as they try to combat USC’s ground attack. It feels like this defensive unit has plenty of individual talent but haven’t quite put the pieces together to get consistent stops, as we saw against ASU on Saturday. As usual, I expect halftime adjustments to be very important for Mike MacIntyre and his squad, especially on the defensive side of the ball.

The players surely understand the magnitude of this game, and will come out playing like it. With the Buffs vying to stay undefeated and make history with their first win against USC, I think they’ll pick up a close win in a tough road environment.

Score Prediction: Colorado 34, USC, 30

Contact CU Independent Head Sports Editor Justin Guerriero at justin.guerriero@colorado.edu and follow him on Twitter @TheHungry_Hippo

Contact CU Independent Assistant Sports Editor Zoe Collins Rath at zoe.collinsrath@colorado.edu

Contact CU Independent Sports Staff Writer Max Troderman at max.troderman@colorado.edu

Contact CU Independent Sports Staff Writer Scott MacDonald at scma0899@colorado.edu and follow him on Twitter @ScottTopics

Contact CU Independent Sports Staff Writer Alex Pepper at alpe3706@colorado.edu

Justin Guerriero

Head Sports Editor Justin Guerriero is a city boy from Pittsburgh, PA, who fell in love with the mountains upon touring CU Boulder for the first time prior to his freshman year. He is a diehard Pittsburgh sports fan and covers whatever needs to be covered at the CUI. Justin is a junior majoring in broadcast production with minors in history and communication. Follow him on Twitter @TheHungry_Hippo

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