No. 18 USC started the new week with some issues surrounding a positive COVID-19 result coming from the team that resulted in the closure of the team facility and cancellation of practice on Tuesday, but the issue was resolved on Wednesday and things were back on track for their game on Saturday against Colorado.
But it took a turn for the worst when practice was canceled once again on Thursday and the Pac-12 conference subsequently announced the game is canceled because the team didn’t have enough scholarship players at the offensive line position group to be able to play.
The school said two players tested positive early in the week and five others went into quarantine based on contact tracing, and the team thought they were in the clear until a player showed symptoms early Thursday, which made them prepare for the game virtually. It is unknown which players or personnel tested positive or were unable to play, but it is likely much of the offensive line.
The Pac-12 conference has dealt with two canceled games every week thus far but has been able to adjust and schedule a game between the teams without cases. This week, the game between Utah and Arizona State was canceled after the Sun Devils had to cancel their third straight game, and the game between Washington and Washington State was canceled due to an outbreak on the Cougars’ team. Utah and Washington will be facing off in Seattle as a result of those games being canceled.
Colorado found an opponent on short notice and will be facing San Diego State at home on Saturday at 2:00 p.m. The Aztecs had a game at Fresno State on Friday that was canceled.
It’s going to be the first game a Pac-12 team will play outside of their conference this season.
If the game between Colorado and USC was to happen, these would have been the key matchups in the game.
With the Trojans at a perfect 3-0, the Buffaloes sit at 2-0 due to a canceled game last week against Arizona State.
The passing game is pretty similar between the two teams with Colorado senior quarterback Sam Noyer completing about 64 percent of his passes for 512 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception so far this season. In comparison, USC quarterback Kedon Slovis has completed almost 71% of his passes for 970 yards, five touchdowns, and two interceptions.
The offensive line for the Buffaloes has also kept Noyer safe, only allowing two sacks, versus USC’s offensive line allowing six sacks on Slovis.
The Trojans have five wide receivers with double-digit receptions while Colorado has only one — sophomore Dimitri Stanley.
The two teams’ running game has done exactly the same so far — both rushing for 441 yards on over 100 attempts.
The defenses are well-matched but the Buffaloes’ has been good with 104 tackles as a team, two sacks, 14 pass deflections, one interception, and two forced fumbles. The Trojans’ defense is one tackle shy of 200 as a team, with eight sacks, 12 pass deflections, four interceptions, and two forced fumbles.
In hindsight, it seems like it’s a pretty even game. But truthfully, USC has played one more game than Colorado, so their statistics should be higher than they are. Colorado would have given the Trojans a tough game.
The Trojans are a throwing team, so if the Buffaloes’ secondary would have found ways to break up passes, they would’ve had a chance to win the game on that side of the ball. For Slovis, making sure he completes his passes and avoids getting sacked should’ve been two things on his mind going into the game.
The Trojans gave up a lot of yards on the ground in their first game but have since cleaned it up. They’ve also given up less than 200 yards in the air in two of their three games this season, which means Colorado needed to have a solid game plan on offense to outsmart the experienced USC defense. The Buffaloes could’ve ran away with the game if they would’ve played well on the ground. Colorado has also had success on 3rd down conversions, with over 51% efficiency, but the Trojans have kept their opponents in the 40% range.
Colorado is a high-scoring team and has scored more points in their two games than the Trojans have in their three games. This matchup would’ve either been a total shootout between top-tier offenses or a matchup of defenses that can force turnovers and mistakes. A big game was expected by safeties Talanoa Hufanga and Isaiah Pola-Mao as well as pass-rusher Drake Jackson.
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These teams are similar and they would’ve both fought hard for the top spot in the Pac-12 South. With USC in first and Colorado in second, as the only two undefeated teams in their division, one team had to go down.
The experts had the Trojans ranked in the AP Top 25, and ESPN’s PickCenter Analysis had USC as an 11-point favorite at home.