The 21st-ranked USC Trojans look to rebound overtime loss to Stanford last week, as they invade Boulder, ever league matchup between the two schools.
USC had won three straight heading into last weekend's primetime showdown with the Cardinal, who were able to piece together a touchdown drive in the final minutes of regulation to tie the game and send it into overtime, eventually winning after three frames. Following the road trip to Boulder, the Trojans will face a difficult two-game stretch, hosting Washington next weekend followed by a trip to Eugene for a Pac-12 showdown with Oregon on November 19th.
The Buffaloes are reeling in their first year of Pac-12 membership, having lost six consecutive games, including last weekend's 48-14 blowout loss to Arizona State. Colorado's only win of the season came against in-state rival Colorado State in a neutral site game in Denver; and the closest the Buffaloes have been in any finish since was a 31-27 loss to Washington State back on October 1st. Colorado will host Arizona next weekend.
USC's Matt Barkley wasn't necessarily out-dueled last weekend against Stanford's Andrew Luck. Barkley more than held his own, completing 28-of-45 passes for 284 yards and three scores, but did have one interception. He has developed a sensational relationship with receiver Robert Woods this season. Woods is a top-shelf talent who once again performed well against the Cardinal, catching nine passes for 89 yards and a touchdown. Marquise Lee added seven catches for 94 yards and another score, while Curtis McNeal rushed 20 times for 145 yards and two touchdowns.
Barkley is 18th in the country in passing efficiency, and tied for 20th in total yards with 289.7 yards per game. The Trojans' passing game accounts for 286.5 of the 432.5 yards of total offense, and the unit averages 32.3 points per game. Barkley rarely gets hit, as USC has allowed just four sacks this season. Woods is tied for second in the country in receptions per game (10.1) and fifth in receiving yards (123.8).
"Offensively, Barkley makes them go. Him and Robert Woods. They have great chemistry, great connection with each other. They are the best combination in the conference, those two guys," said Colorado head coach Jon Embree at his weekly press conference on Tuesday. "Their running game, they got that going some last week with McNeal. They are the USC Trojans. They are a good team."
USC's defense came up with big play after big play against Stanford, including a 33-yard interception return for a touchdown by Nickell Robey with 3:08 left in the fourth quarter that broke a 27-27 tie. But the Trojans ran out of gas down the stretch and in overtime, and by the time the dust had settled, Luck had completed 29-of-40 for 330 yards and three touchdowns, and had taken over the game in the extra frame. USC played pretty well against the run, giving up 186 yards on 48 carries. USC ranks 16th in the country in rushing defense (103), but are near the bottom nationally in passing defense (273.2). Dion Bailey leads the team in tackles and is third in the Pac-12 in the category with 64 stops. Bailey, Nickell and T.J. McDonald have all recorded two interceptions.
The unit should be on track to bounce back this weekend against a Colorado offense that has been stagnant for much of the 2011 campaign.
Colorado's offensive performance was marred by turnovers a week ago, as the Buffaloes coughed up three fumbles and quarterback Tyler Hansen was picked off twice. Hansen finished with 285 yards on 22-of-35 passing and one touchdown last weekend, but received little run support; Colorado rushed 32 times for 83 yards and no scores. Colorado is 114th in the country in rushing (90.0 yards per game), 111th in scoring (18.7) and 98th in total offense (335.1). Hansen ranks ninth in the Pac-12 in passing efficiency (129.3) and has thrown for 2,046 yards this season with 14 touchdowns against six interceptions. Hansen's top target is Rodney Stewart, who averages four catches per game for 62.1 yards.
The Buffalo defense has been gashed for 45 points or more in each of its last four games, and Arizona State had its way moving the football last week. Colorado gave up 307 yards passing and two touchdowns from Brock Osweiler, and the Sun Devils racked up 207 yards on the ground. Arizona State scored 21 points in the first quarter and led 31-7 at the half. The defense ranks 100th nationally in total defense (434.5), and is 117th in scoring defense (38.3). Chidera Uzo-Diribe ranks fourth in the Pac-12 with 5.5 sacks, while Ray Polk leads the team with 50 tackles through nine games.
"Teams right now are having their way with us and that is something that we are trying to address and talk about, but yet at the same time, you are limited with some of the things that you want to do or that you might be able to do to maybe help it," said Embree.