The USC Trojans travel to Boulder this Saturday to take on the Colorado Buffaloes at 10 a.m. local time. Ever since Colorado exploded onto the scene with a big upset win in Week 1 over TCU, the anticipation of this game has been growing.
Colorado was shellacked last week by Oregon, and while they still won, SC played a very sloppy game against Arizona State. Both teams will be looking to set the tone and establish an identity in this game.
Here are 5 things the USC Trojans must do in order to defeat the Colorado Buffaloes.
1. Bring The Pressure Against Shedeur Sanders
Shedeur Sanders has been electric to start this college football season. Through four games he has 1,410 yards, 11 touchdowns, and only 1 interception. He quickly rose into the Heisman conversation, and many even touted him better than Caleb Williams…
Sanders came crashing back to Earth in Eugene last weekend. The Oregon Ducks provided a perfect blueprint on how to slow this Colorado offense down, and it all starts with the pass rush.
Oregon finished the game with 24 pressures and 8 sacks, they were in the backfield all afternoon. After throwing for 510, 393, and 348, Sanders was held to just 159 yards against the Ducks.
The Trojans finished with 20 pressures and 8 sacks last game against Arizona State. A good chunk of those came in the 4th quarter, but against this Colorado offensive line, SC will need to bring the pressure early and often. The Trojans are top-10 in the country in overall pressure rate and are the number one team in the nation in pressure rate on non-blitz plays. If Jamil Muhammad, Bear Alexander, Solomon Byrd, and Co. can get after Sanders early and often, then this SC defense should be able to contain the explosive Colorado offense.
2. Give Marshawn Lloyd The Rock – Often
Marshawn Lloyd has continued to get better and better every single game. Last week was no different as he rushed for 154 yards on 14 carries. It was great to see him get double-digit carries, but with how efficient he was running (11.0 yards per carry), I would love to see him get the rock even more.
We preach all the time on the Salute To Troy Podcast that a balanced attack is so important, even when you have a quarterback like Caleb Williams under center. Lloyd is quietly becoming one of the best running backs in America, and giving him the rock more will only enable that.
3. Let Brenden Rice Eat
The Trojans have a loaded WR room, that isn’t a mystery. Each receiver has a little different skill set and adds a slightly different dimension to the offense. Has one WR emerged as WR1 yet? I’m not sure if one has, and I have stated before that so far, it seems like Caleb’s go-to receiver depends on the situation. Short-yardage space-eater – Zachariah Branch. Inside-outside intermediate routes – Mario Williams. Do-it-all moments – Tahj Washington. Go up and get it – Dorian Singer. Speed, speed, speed – Brenden Rice.
Rice has 5 touchdowns on the year, but last week against Arizona was the most involved he has been all season. He finished with 7 receptions, 133 yards, and 2 touchdowns. It felt like he became Caleb’s go-to guy right before our eyes. When the game was tight, it was Rice who kept the offense going and found the open space in the end zone after a beautiful scramble from Superman.
It is a different coaching staff at Colorado, but Brenden Rice played his first two years for the Buffaloes before transferring to USC. There is always some added motivation to go against your former squad. If I’m Coach Riley and Caleb Williams, I am feeding Brenden Rice early and often and watching him EAT.
4. Morning Watch With Calen Bullock
Calen Bullock is one of the nation’s premier safeties and is considered a top NFL Draft prospect in next year’s draft. One of his best skill sets is playing in a high look, watching the quarterback’s tendencies, and then making a jump on the ball. He notched his first interception of the season last week doing exactly this.
The Trojans defense will need him to be a true watchman this Saturday. If he can shut down any big plays, and even come up with an interception, the Trojans defense will likely look like an improved group.
Pressure up front will be key, but if Sanders is given time, then Bullock will need to be extremely disciplined while also springing into action with lightning-quick reflexes to keep Colorado’s streaky receivers in check.
5. Caleb Being Caleb
When Caleb Williams plays like he is capable of, which is pretty much every week, this SC team is extremely tough to beat, that’s just how good he is. In only 12 quarters of work, Williams has 1,200 yards passing, 18 total touchdowns, and zero interceptions. Last week against ASU felt as if he was a little out of rhythm, and yet he still finished with 322 yards passing and 5 total touchdowns.
The Colorado defense is no match for Williams and the SC offense. They just need to play clean, sound football, and let Caleb be Caleb.
You can bet the Buffaloes will attempt to throw a stampede at Williams, so how he reacts to these blitzes and how Coach Riley calls the game will be something to watch for as the game progresses. ASU threw some punches last week, but Caleb was able to counter. How will he react to Colorado’s all-out attack? We will see on Saturday.