USC Trojans at Colorado Buffaloes Pick 10/25/19
USC Trojans (4-3) at Colorado Buffaloes (3-4)
When: Friday, October 25, 9 p.m EDT
Where: Folsom Field, Boulder, Colo.
Point Spread: USC -12.5 (5Dimes)
Total: O/U 60.5
Outlook For Week 9
This contest is a trap game for USC, which has the inside track on winning the Pac-12 South Division because of its victory over Utah. At 3-1 in the league, USC doesn’t have any margin for error because it has a loss to Washington on its resume, meaning a loss to the likes of Colorado would open the door for the Utes. As such, this is a double trap for the Trojans, because not only do they have to worry about facing Oregon in the Pac-12 championship game, but they’ve got to take on the Ducks next week, making it very hard for Clay Helton to keep his players’ minds on Colorado and not Oregon.
For the Buffaloes, this is essentially a “do or die” situation as far as bowl eligibility goes. Win this game, and the Buffaloes can earn a 6-6 mark by besting a middling UCLA and a Stanford squad that’s on its third quarterback. Lose, and Colorado will have to beat either Washington or Utah, neither of which is an ideal proposition.
How the Public is Betting the USC/Colorado Game
The public favors the Trojans here, as the line has shifted a point toward USC, while the over/under has dropped from 61 to 60.5 since opening.
More Picks: Saturday Night CFB: Cal vs. Utah Pick
Running back Stephen Carr and defensive lineman Drake Jackson are both questionable with a hamstring injury and a foot injury, respectively. Wide receiver Munir McClain has a torn ACL and is out for the season. Running back Markese Stepp is doubtful with an ankle injury, and running back Vavae Malepai is out indefinitely after undergoing knee surgery.
Defensive tackle Jalen Sami is questionable with a knee injury, while corner Mekhi Blackmon is out for the season with a shoulder injury.
When USC Has the Ball
Kedon Slovis seems to be figuring out how to play quarterback at the college level, as he looked terrific against Arizona last week. Granted, the Wildcats aren’t a top squad by any means, but he’s still thrown four touchdowns and no interceptions in his past two games, and one of those games was against Notre Dame, which is undoubtedly one of the stronger squads in the nation. Any quarterback who can go to South Bend and give his team a chance to win won’t be intimidated by a trip to Boulder.
Slovis has to shoulder the load because if Carr can’t play, USC will be down to its fourth running back. Kenon Christon looked good when he got to run the ball against Arizona, and Colorado doesn’t present much more of a challenge than the Wildcats did. If his performance was for real, the Trojans will be fine.
The biggest issue here is what happens on third down. Colorado has seen its efforts on defense consistently undone because the Buffaloes simply cannot get off the field on third down. The Buffs are essentially a coin flip on third down, as opponents convert 49.5 percent of their third downs against Colorado, which ranks second-worst among Power 5 schools (ahead of only Kansas) and seventh-worst in the nation. That’s also a recipe for disaster against USC, which converts at a robust 42.2 percent clip on third downs.
When Colorado Has the Ball
Steven Montez is going the wrong way in a hurry, as his past two games have been simply nightmarish. Throwing four picks and no touchdowns is pretty horrendous, but at least that was against Oregon, which seems to be the Pac-12’s best squad. Tossing no touchdowns and two picks against a Washington State team that gave up 67 points to a bad UCLA offense is another matter entirely. Montez is easily Colorado’s most important player, and when he’s off, the Buffaloes simply aren’t going to be competitive, let alone win.
Getting Alex Fontenot going on the ground would be very helpful, as SC is not particularly strong against the run. The Trojans give up just under 190 yards a game on the ground, so if Colorado can take advantage of that, it would take a lot of pressure off of Montez and possibly get him back to his old self.
This series has been nothing short of one-way traffic, as USC has never lost to Colorado. This will be the schools’ ninth meeting as Pac-12 rivals, and only two of their previous eight conference matchups have been decided by less than one touchdown. Under Clay Helton, USC has improved its defense against Colorado, as three of the past four meetings between the teams have gone under the projected total of 62 points.
Snow is in the forecast leading up to the game, but by Friday night, the weather is projected to warm up to a fall-like 58 degrees.
Dan’s Pick to Cover the Spread
I don’t know where Montez’s head is right now, but it doesn’t seem like he’s ready to lead Colorado to a successful finish to its season. When you have problems throwing the ball on Washington State, which can’t stop anyone, there’s something seriously wrong with your offense.
Maybe Mel Tucker got Montez’s attention this week by benching him against the Cougars, but I don’t think it’s going to help much. I’m certainly not going to back him and a poor third-down defense against an SC squad that’s moving in the right direction and is getting good, solid quarterback play from Slovis. I’m a little worried about the trap for the Trojans, but I don’t think Colorado is good enough to spring it. Give me the Trojans here and guys if you’re looknig for more of my predictions plus the rest of the handicapping team, check out our NCAA Football page.