The struggling Colorado Buffaloes (4-6) still have an outside chance of finishing above .500 and now take on a spoiler role when they host the USC Trojans (6-3) on Friday in their final game at Folsom Field this season. Mike MacIntyre's squad has lost four of their last five games, with upcoming road games against Washington State (6-3) and No. 10 Utah (8-1) still on the schedule.
Colorado will have a tough test against USC. The Trojans have won three straight, and all by six points or more. The Buffaloes, however, will have the weather on their side. According to accuweather.com, temperatures should dip to about 37 degrees at kickoff time.
Interim head coach Clay Helton is expected to rely on his ground game, which is coming off one of their best efforts of the season. Against Arizona on Saturday, Ronald Jones II and Justin Davis combined for 262 rushing yards. The Buffaloes defense won't face Tre Madden, who will be out with a bone bruise in his knee. But the duo of Jones and Davis have already combined for 1,130 yards and 11 touchdowns and should provide plenty of problems for the worst rush defense in the Pac-12.
The Trojans also boast an impressive passing attack, with senior quarterback Cody Kessler and sophomore wide out JuJu Smith-Schuster. Kessler appeared to be in the running for the Heisman Trophy through the first four games, but a poor effort against Washington on Oct. 8 and some slightly uninspired performance since then have quieted talk of him winning college football's most prestigious award. Still, Kessler has enjoyed an impressive season, behind 20 touchdowns and a 69.3-percent completion rate. MacIntyre believes it's crucial to contain Kessler, especially after he threw for a school record seven touchdowns against Colorado last year.
"It's important for us to get pressure on [Kessler] and knock him off his rhythm. If not, it will be a long day like it was in previous years," MacIntyre said.
Colorado's offense has averaged 27.9 points per game, but ranks No. 10 in the conference. The Buffaloes rely on all-purpose quarterback Sefo Liufau. The junior has thrown for over 300 yards in three games this season, and has rushed for a total of 256 yards and five touchdowns. Liufau may be due for a big game after failing to throw a touchdown pass against UCLA or Stanford in Week 9 and Week 10, respectively.
Helton remains adamant that the Trojans should not take the Buffaloes lightly even though USC has outscored Colorado by an average of nearly 29 points in their last four meetings.
“This is a different Colorado team than we’ve faced over the last couple of years,” Helton said. “I just look at them and I know the wins aren’t coming to them like they would like. But you look at the way they’re competing against some really quality teams right now, and they seem like they’re in every game.”
Betting Line: USC by 18 points
Over/Under: 59.5 points
Start Time: 9:00 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN2
Live Stream: Watch ESPN
Prediction: Cold weather or not, the Trojans should run all over the Buffaloes. Colorado will have problems containing Jones and Davis, and will need Liufau to have a career game to upset USC. Don't anticipate an upset, as this game should be out of reach by the start of the fourth quarter.
Predicted Score: USC over Colorado, 38-24