No. 14 USC can put the wraps on the Pac-12 Southtitle Saturday with a win at Colorado. And the Trojans may even have an outsideshot at a much larger prize if they can keep winning as they came in asemi-surprising 11th in the latest College Football Playoffrankings, ahead of every other two-loss team aside from No. 10 Auburn.
No two-loss team has ever made the playoff, butUSC does have an outside shot at cracking the final four should things breakjust right over the next four weekends. First, though, the Trojans will have toadd to their current two-game win streak which has followed their disappointing49-14 loss at Notre Dame on Oct. 21, and next up is Saturday’s date in Boulder.“It’s still so early in November, and there are so many games still to beplayed and decisions to be made,” USC coach Clay Helton told the Los AngelesTimes on Tuesday. “(But) it’s nice to be thought of that way.” Colorado capturedthe South title a year ago but finds itself at bottom of the standings afterdropping five of its last seven games.
TV: 4 p.m. ET, FOX. LINE: USC -13.5
ABOUT USC (8-2, 6-1 Pac-12): The loss to theIrish marks the only time the Trojans have scored fewer than 26 points in theirlast 17 games, but in its two most recent contests USC has rolled up 97 pointsand 1,249 total yards, including 672 on the ground in thumping Arizona Stateand Arizona. Sam Darnold ranks second in Pac-12 total offense (292.7 yards pergame) and third in passing efficiency (147.2 rating) while Ronald Jones is fifthwith 120.2 rushing yards per outing after totaling 410 and five touchdowns overthe last two contests. Led by linebacker Cameron Smith (8.3 tackles) anddefensive lineman Rasheem Green (conference-most seven sacks), the Trojans’defense has notched 11 sacks and forced four turnovers over the last two weeks.
ABOUT COLORADO (5-5, 2-5): The Buffaloes needeither to win Saturday or in their Nov. 25 regular-season finale at Utah tobecome bowl-eligible for the second straight season. One phase of the game orthe other seemingly has broken down each week of late for Colorado, and last Saturdaynight it was the defense, which surrendered 583 total yards, including 381rushing, and 27 second-half points in a 41-30 road loss at Arizona State.Quarterback Steven Montez has posted strong numbers (43-of-67 passing, 735yards of total offense, five TDs) in the two games since being benched in a28-0 loss at Washington State, while running back Phillip Lindsay ranks secondin the Pac-12 in all-purpose yards (156.7) and trails only his USC counterpart Jones(14) with 13 total TDs.
1. USC is 11-0 all-time vs. Colorado, including a5-0 record in Boulder. The Trojans prevailed 21-17 last season in L.A.
2. The Trojans have won 15 straight home games,including a 6-0 mark this season, but are 2-2 on the road this year.
3. Lindsay needs 32 rushing yards to move intosecond place on Colorado’s all-time rushing list and needs 18 yards to becomethe school’s all-time receiving yards leader among running backs.
PREDICTION: USC 38, Colorado 27