USC escapes Colorado with a win but what’s next for the Trojans?

John Leyba-USA TODAY Sports
USC is 5-0 this year and Caleb Williams is playing better than he did during his Heisman season but USC's defense continues to cause concern.

With USC leading Colorado 34-7 with less than 30 seconds left in the first half and up 48-21 with about a minute left in the third quarter, USC looked as if it would give Colorado its second straight blowout loss in as many weeks but that wasn’t the case.

The difference between USC and Oregon, which defeated Colorado 42-6 last week, is defense. Despite Caleb Williams’ heroics and the Trojan offense’s efficiency, USC defensive coordinator Alex Grinch’s unit allowed Colorado to make this way more of a game than it should’ve been.

Here are three takeaways from USC’s 48-41 win over Colorado:

Christmas in September

Everyone was getting gifts from Southern California’s Santa Claus, as once again, Williams was wheeling and dealing. Outside of his interception later in the game — his first of the season — Williams lit up the box score once again with over 400 yards and six touchdowns. In his return to Boulder, Brendan Rice picked up where he left off in Tempe and nabbed two touchdowns. The Trojans’ deep threat Tahj Washington found himself alone down the field and hauled in another bomb with a 71-yard touchdown.

The two receivers we’ve been wanting to see more out of, Singer and Williams, caught touchdowns, and tight end Jude Wolfe even hauled in a touchdown pass from three yards out. At the end of the contest, Williams had tallied six scores in the air while completing 75% of his passes and hitting ten different receivers. Yes, there’s finally a blemish in the turnover column for the reigning Heisman winner, but you can’t ask for much more out of your star quarterback if you’re Lincoln Riley.

The run game was not as potent as in games past, and it looks as if Marshawn Lloyd has a firm hold on the starting spot. Jones didn’t see the field too much. I would’ve liked to see Riley make more of an effort to make a statement on the road and try his best to put up over 50 points on Coach Prime’s defense, but a win is a win. At the end of the day, you can’t complain when your team drops 48 points.

The Grinch who (almost) stole Christmas

Grinch is such a good guy you want to root for him and give him the benefit of the doubt, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t concerned about his job. When the Trojans went up 48-21 in the third quarter, things should’ve been over. Yet, Shedeur Sanders marched and marched down the field with ease and scored 20 unanswered points. If this game had this game gone on any longer, there’s a real chance that Colorado could’ve knotted things up at 48 points. The first quarter was a dream; Shedeur and the Buffalo offense couldn’t get anything going past 5 yards. At the end of the second quarter, the defense let Colorado creep back in, and then that’s when things began to unravel for the Trojans defensively.

Byrd and Muhammad looked great, as per usual, and the pressure the Trojan defense put on was excessive (kudos to Sanders, who operated like a surgeon in a very uncomfortable pocket). Still, the defensive backfield continued to get torched. We love to see a freshman have a coming-out party, except when it’s against your team. Omarion Miller spoiled the day for the Trojans, and while the Cardinal and Gold came out on top, the victory was not too sweet due to the defense’s poor performance. For a long time, I’ve been saying that USC can go punch for punch with anyone in the Pac-12, but after seeing what the Ducks did against Colorado last week, I’m concerned the defensive side of the football for USC may be their undoing.

They’ll have the Singer revenge game next week before they play the explosive Fighting Irish offense on the road. And not look past an improved Wildcats team, but the Fighting Irish are in desperation mode after blowing the lead against the Buckeyes. The country is on Penix’s side for the Heisman, the Ducks did a better job whistle-to-whistle against Colorado, and once again, the Trojans could sneakily have the most arduous road to the college football playoffs. Thankfully for the defense, Sanders is the most athletic quarterback they’ll see. There were times when they struggled against his running abilities.

What’s next for the Trojans?

At the end of the day, it was the second week in a row where the Trojans played an incomplete game. Winning out in the Pac-12 should be enough, but we need to see this team win more emphatically to consider them a serious threat to win it all. USC will play Arizona next week at the Coliseum before a stretch that will define its season with games against Notre Dame, Utah, Washington and Oregon.