KICKOFF: Friday, 9 ET
SITE: Folsom Field, Boulder, Colo.
TV: ESPN, ESPN3
SERIES: USC leads 5-0 (last meeting, 2002, USC 40-3)
RECORDS: USC 6-2, 3-2 Pac-12; Colorado 1-8, 0-5 Pac-12
POLLS: USC (No. 21 AP)
PREDICTION: USC 49-14
KEYS TO THE GAME:
-- For USC: Put the loss to Stanford in the past. It looks like leading rusher, RB Marc Tyler, will be out because of shoulder injury, and that means the burden of the rushing game will fall again to Curtis McNeal. The Trojans need to be physical and take the hope of an upset away from Colorado.
-- For Colorado: Get out of the gate fast. Colorado has trailed by double-digits in seven of nine games this season and lost each of those games. Colorado could get a boost if USC overlooks the Buffaloes or has a tough time bouncing back from an emotional triple-overtime loss to Stanford.
SCOUTING THE TEAMS:
USC will take aim at Colorado's defense, which is the worst in the Pac-12, allowing 38.3 points per game. The Buffaloes have allowed at least 45 points in each of their past four conference games. In the chilly weather, USC should be able to keep it simple by establishing a run game against a defense that is allowing 185.7 yards per game on the ground. Colorado has given up at least 500 yards in four consecutive games for the first time in school history.
With the help of triple overtime against Stanford, USC has now given up at least 40 points in a game three times this season -- which had never happened before in school history. That negative stat is odd because of the experience up front, but the back seven is raw, albeit talented, in spots. This week could be bad timing for USC, as the Buffs could get RB Rodney Stewart and WR Paul Richardson back from injury. The USC secondary has to deal with a healthy QB Tyler Hansen and a passing attack that put up 337 yards vs. Arizona State last week.
Colorado's offense ranks near the bottom of the conference in every category, but the Buffs should get a boost from the return of RB Rodney Stewart and WR Paul Richardson against the Trojans. With senior QB Tyler Hansen fully healthy, the Buffs may be able to throw on USC. Colorado is averaging 245.1 passing yards per game while the Trojans are giving up 273.2 yards.
Defensively, Colorado has given up 500 or more yards of offense during four straight games for the first time in school history, and there is a good chance that streak continues against the high-powered Trojans. USC is averaging nearly 432 yards of offense per game and scoring 32.3 points per game, while the Buffs are giving up 38.3 points per game, worst in the conference.
Trojans: This will be USC's first Friday game since playing in the afternoon after Thanksgiving in 1999, when the Trojans beat Louisiana Tech 45-19. ... S T.J. McDonald will miss the first half of this week's game at Colorado because the Pac-12 handed down a suspension after reviewing the USC-Stanford game. The league ruled that the suspension was warranted based on his hard hit against a defenseless player. ... Coach Lane Kiffin, who criticized game officials following the loss to Stanford because he didn't get a timeout with one second left, was fined $10,000 by the Pac-12. ... USC is not eligible for the Pac-12 title or to be ranked in the USA Today Coaches' poll because of NCAA penalties. ... Junior Matt Barkley already is fourth on USC's list for career completions (65) and fifth in total offense (7,789 yards). He has thrown at least one touchdown pass in 28 of his 32 appearances. ... Sophomore WR Robert Woods has seven 100-yard receiving games in his career with five of them coming this season. He has topped 200 yards in a game twice.
Buffaloes: Colorado gets to go two weeks without hearing about its 22-game road losing streak. After hosting UCC Friday night, they are at home against Arizona. Then it's back on the road for the final two chances this season to snap the road losing streak at UCLA and Utah. ... When QB Tyler Hansen threw an 18-yard pass to Keenan Canty to convert a third-and-17 near the end of the first quarter against ASU, it was the longest conversion of the season for the Buffs. Colorado was unable to convert its first 16 chances on third-and-15 or longer. ... Hansen is expected to return to the starting lineup after sitting out the start of the 48-14 loss to Arizona State Saturday following a concussion he suffered the previous week against Oregon. ... QB Nick Hirschman and DB Josh Moten both made their first start of the season against ASU. Hirschman was 4-of-7 passing for 52 yards. That makes 21 players who have started their first game for the Buffaloes this season. ... DB Justin Gorman had his first touch of the season when he returned a kickoff in the third quarter against ASU. ... CBs Parker Orms and Paul Vigo have been reinstated from a four-game suspension by coach Jon Embree, but neither will play against USC. CB Ayodeji Olatoye and LB Liloa Nobriga remain suspended from the same incident for which Orms and Vigo were disciplined.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
S Drew McAllister -- He will be the first-half replacement for suspended S T.J. McDonald. McAllister has nine tackles this season.
CB Nickell Robey -- He has had two brilliant games back to back, shutting down Notre Dame star WR Michael Floyd and then picking off Stanford's Andrew Luck for a touchdown. Now, he might get Colorado star WR Paul Richardson, who is expected to return from injury.
WR Robert Woods -- The sophomore's speed and versatility should be too much for Colorado to handle. He has 81 receptions for 991 yards and nine scores through eight games. Woods is in the top five nationally in receptions, receiving yards, and all-purpose yards.
CB Travis Sandersfeld -- The senior had a forced fumble that led to a touchdown for Colorado against ASU. Sandersfeld was expected to be a veteran leader in the secondary, but he injured his leg in practice after the second game of the season and missed six weeks before returning to play against the Sun Devils. He tied for third on the team with four tackles, including one for loss, in his return on Saturday.
CB Josh Moten -- The redshirt freshman made his first start for Colorado against Arizona State and returned a fumble 16 yards for a touchdown. It was the first defensive score of the season for the Buffs. Moten, who was suspended by coach Jon Embree for a violation of team rules earlier this season, also had a pair of tackles.
TB Josh Ford -- The sophomore led the Buffaloes with 10 rushes for 73 yards against the Sun Devils, both career-highs for Ford. He averaged 7.3 yards per carry and had a long run of 20 yards. Ford also returned two kickoffs for 51 yards, including a 32-yarder.
WR Paul Richardson (knee, probable), TB Rodney Stewart (knee, probable), RB Malcolm Creer (knee, out), OG Paulay Asiata (shoulder, questionable), WR Kyle Cefalo (knee, out), DB Jason Espinoza (concussion, day-to-day), C Brian Lockridge (ankle, day-to-day), SS Anthony Perkins (ankle doubtful).