X-Factors for USC Trojans’ Matchup with Colorado

USC Players huddle up against Oregon State.

X-Factors for USC Trojans’ Matchup with Colorado

The 2-2 USC Trojans are traveling to Boulder, Colorado on Saturday to face the 1-3 Colorado Buffaloes, and from what we’ve seen in both teams, it’s going to be a game based on whoever wants it more.

The Trojans are a pass-first team working on their running game, and the Buffaloes are a rush-first team that hasn’t established a solid passing game yet with freshman QB Brendon Lewis.

For USC, the key to getting a win against Colorado is to make their young quarterback uncomfortable. The offensive line is good at creating space for the running game, but they haven’t held up enough for Lewis, resulting in 10 sacks in four games — two against Northern Colorado, one against Texas A&M, four against Minnesota, and three against Arizona State.

For Colorado, the key to getting a win against USC is to rely heavily on the running game, as they have so far, and put points on the board. While ranked so low in stats among Pac-12 teams, they have to find a way to get out of their own and upset a USC team that is working on finding themselves.

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The X-Factors for this game are a bit out of the ordinary.

For USC: 

Keaontay Ingram & USC offensive line

Ingram started the last game for the first time in a Trojans uniform and led his team in rushes because he was successful early on, but when they got down by a lot, they had to get back to their passing game. When facing a team like Colorado, who is ranked towards the middle in the Pac-12 in rushing and passing yards, USC has to get to the run early on and make them change their game plan. They have no choice but to plan for the Air Raid offense, so establishing the run is important. On top of that, using Ingram often may work well, but bringing Vavae Malepeai in to create a balance will work wonders. The Trojans’ offensive line is in a tough position, but USC has a good rotation going amongst them.

Drake London

When in doubt, you throw it to No. 15. It’s known across the country that junior quarterback Kedon Slovis has built a lot of chemistry with London over the years, and London’s success this season has him leading all of college football in receiving yards and is tied for first in receptions. It’s easy to figure out where the ball is going when USC is in a tough situation, but the Trojans also do a good job at balancing the passing game by throwing it to the other options. Through four games, London has 39 receptions for 540 yards and three touchdowns. If Colorado wants to win, they have to make sure redshirt junior Mekhi Blackmon is chasing him and he has some help — because he’ll need it.

USC linebackers

It’s no secret that USC has allowed a lot of yards on the ground this season, and through four games, they’ve allowed 157.5 rushing yards a game, which is ranked towards the bottom in the Pac-12 conference. The Colorado running game isn’t better than Oregon State, so if USC wants to win this game, the linebackers have to make sure they’re in the right positions to minimize positive yardage and get stops. It’s going to be the responsibility of Drake Jackson, Kana’i Mauga, and Ralen Goforth to get it done and set the tone from the start.

For Colorado:

Colorado Rushing Attack

The Buffaloes’ passing game isn’t very effective with Lewis completing only slightly more than half of his passes, but the run game averages about 154 yards per game among the two running backs and Lewis when scrambling out of the pocket. Sophomore Jarek Broussard and junior Alex Fontenot do a bulk of the running — Broussard averaging 4.3 yards per attempt and Fontenot averaging four yards per attempt. Aside from the two, Lewis averages almost four yards per attempt as well. If the three of them are able to get some room on the outside, they can make some damage against the Trojans. If they’re unable to get open, it’ll be a long game for them.

Colorado Defensive Line And Linebackers

The linebacker position group is among the best on the Buffaloes’ squad led by inside linebackers senior Nate Landman and junior Quinn Perry, while the defensive line has a few big guys to worry about. Both position groups have to find a way to limit the Trojans’ offense. If Slovis is uncomfortable, he’ll make mistakes with the ball — as we’ve seen over and over. If USC establishes their offense early, they can be able to score on teams left and right. USC hasn’t necessarily dominated any team they’ve played this season — they’ve just skated by — so this game will be all about how well the defensive front can do against the Trojans’ offense.

Karl Dorrell

USC should know exactly who Colorado’s second-year head coach Karl Dorrell is based on his time at UCLA — both playing and coaching. Since then, he has been everywhere across college football and the pro level as an offensive assistant coach for many teams. Paired with Dorrell is his defensive coordinator Chris Wilson, who served as USC’s defensive line coach under Steve Sarkisian in 2014, and offensive coordinator Darrin Chiaverini, who began his coaching career on the junior college level in SoCal at Mt. San Antonio College with stops at UCLA and Riverside City College before leaving to Texas Tech. This coaching staff isn’t going to go easy on the Trojans, and they’re looking to turn their season around by pulling off an upset on Saturday.

Saturday is going to be a big test for the Trojans, and in the USC football realm, it’s pass or fail — no in between.

Kickoff is set for 11 a.m. PST and will be televised on the Pac-12 Network. 


USC Players huddle up against Oregon State.