The long-awaited match-up between the USC Trojans and the Colorado Buffaloes kicks at 9 a.m. PT this Saturday. It’s a very different start time than the Trojans have grown accustomed to playing; it’ll be interesting to see if that is a factor that affects either team’s play throughout the game. From practice notes to the game’s lines to key things to watch out for, there’s a lot to preview in the upcoming match-up, so let’s get right into it:
The Relationship between the Head Coach and QB
Coach Prime and his QB1, Shedeur Sanders, share a special bond rarely seen at this high a level. More common in college hoops, Deion is the father to Shedeur, a fact that everyone and their mother know now. And despite Lincoln Riley not being the father to Caleb Williams (or having any relation), the Journey the pair has been on is not too dissimilar to that of the Sanders men. While the Riley-Williams Relationship didn’t begin until recruitment/commitment, the trust these two have built-in one another over the years is borderline incomparable. Williams elected to take his talents to Oklahoma University, where, at the time, Riley was the head coach and famed QB-star maker. Williams could’ve gone anywhere in the country, but why not go to the school churning out QBs to the NFL, like Dunkin Donuts churning out coffee to the people in the Northeast? After the final whistle blew on Williams’ successful freshman campaign in Norman, Riley bolted for Southern California. Williams could’ve easily stayed at OU and likely continued his success. Instead, he chose to leap of faith and follow the coach, not the program, into the next chapter of his collegiate career. The trust in Riley paid off for Caleb, as the Trojans’ QB1 has been virtually unstoppable since his first snap for the Cardinal and Gold.
Similarly, Shedeur Sanders has followed Coach Prime to each of his first coaching destinations. Sanders doesn’t play because he’s “the coach’s son.” He plays because he’s an elite talent. Sanders, a top-100 recruit in his class, had offers from around the country but CHOSE to play for his father. And when Coach Prime left his positive mark on JSU and headed to Boulder, Shedeur followed a move that has benefited the young Sanders greatly, as the uptick in spotlight time has allowed everyone across the nation to see him shine. Both QBs, Williams, and Sanders, have been rewarded for their loyalty to their coaches. Riley and Prime, respectively, trust their signal callers immensely, as seen on the field. Though one duo is blood-related, each HC-QB combo’s paths are strikingly similar. When asked about the jobs Prime’s done in Colorado, Lincoln had this to say:
While Riley doesn’t get into the specific HC-QB similarity, he acknowledges each program’s similar trajectories. No matter what the score says, come the final whistle on Saturday, these two programs have undergone seismic change in the last 24 months, and exponential growth should continue to be expected for each school.
Defensive Coordinator Alex Grinch and Defensive Captain Mason Cobb spoke to the importance of the defense finishing plays and, ultimately, finishing games more emphatically. As stated in the previous article, a different tale is told if you look away from the final score and look at the players’ stats. The Trojan defense lived in the Sun Devils’ backfield, making Drew Pyne’s job quite uncomfortable this past Saturday. Still, the Sun Devils managed to put up 28 points. With a 52-yard score and 25-yard score, USC gives up chunk plays, which tend to make things look much less pretty than they are at the final whistle. Grinch and Cobb seemed a little frustrated with how things turned out because they, like us, knew the defense played much better than the score said. Oregon gave the Colorado O-Line hell last weekend. In my opinion, the Trojans have the talent and depth in the front seven to continue to make life not as smooth for the young Sanders. If Grinch can dial up some interior pressure and allow his guys to get good match-ups on the outside pass rush, the Trojans should have high sack numbers again. Can they get a turnover? That could be a turning point in this contest; it’d be great to see the Trojan DBs pump the INT. #’s up as we head into the pass-happy PAC.
The Betting Line
If you rode with me last week, you lost money, my bad. I’m feeling a bit more confident this week. The Trojans are favored on the road by 21.5 points, and the over/under sits at a gaudy 73.5. The latter number, I think, is reachable, despite Colorado having that number last week and falling way short vs. the Ducks. The Trojans scored a season-low 42 points last week. They should be coming into Boulder with “50” on their mind. If USC gets to 50, which I think they should, the Buffaloes will get to 20. It’s no slight on USC and no suggestion that the Ducks are better (they’re not), but that’s how the cookie crumbles for the Cardinal and Gold. I’m going with a Trojan victory to 52-28—a score that’s good enough to cover the spread and one that nails the over. Colorado is 2-6 against the spread in their last eight games and has hit the over/under total in 11 of their last 15; stats sound enough to convince me to lean the way I’m leaning on this one. Ride with me…if you dare.
The game should have more bark than bite; the Trojans SHOULD head to a thinner-roster Colorado and take care of business on the second leg of their road trip.