USC Trojans (6-3 SU, 5-4 ATS) vs. Colorado Buffaloes (4-6 SU, 3-6-1 ATS)
College Football Week 11
Date/Time: Friday, November 13, 2015 at 9:00PM EST
Where: Folsom Field, Boulder, California
TV: ESPN 2
by Scott, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: USC -16/COL +16
Over/Under Total: Off
The USC Trojans make the trip to Boulder on Friday to face the Colorado Buffaloes in Pac-12 conference action. Southern Cal has been on bit of a roll lately, winning their third game in a row on Saturday with a 38-30 win over Arizona, overcoming a 4th quarter deficit with a late spurt of 21 points. Colorado had a less-successful Saturday, getting rolled at home by Stanford, 42-10. At 4-6, Colorado is still at home, but now has to prepare for a tough incoming team in the Trojans who still have things to strive for this season.
The Buffaloes have been struggling and other than a nice road win at Oregon State, theyve come up snake-eyes in conference and are on a roll of 5 losses in 6 games. Colorado was able to overcome a rough opening week loss to Hawaii by winning 3 games in a row. Their mojo ran out when they got into conference play. They were, however, competitive against UCLA in a tough road game, as well as at home against Arizona. They came up woefully short on Saturday against Stanford. But then again, Stanford is one of the best teams in the nation and asking Colorado to hang with them was perhaps asking too much in retrospect.
Colorado has been getting inconsistent performances from most of their top players in recent weeks. The only player to shine on any level on Saturday was WR Nelson Spruce. He is a real weapon for QB Sefo Liufau, who has alternated between really good and downright mediocre. They have a decent 1-2 punch at running back with Phillip Lindsay and Christian Powell, though neither was particularly effective on Saturday. But again, that was against Stanford. Against a USC defense this week that is less ironclad, look for some better results.
The Colorado defense isnt all that bad, though theyve shown themselves to be out of their element against the more complete offensive teams in the conference. They were stout only in one spotin the win against Oregon St. Other than that, theyve allowed an average of 41 points per game. Against another talented Pac-12 offense this week, can Colorado hope for better results? To their credit, Colorados D has made plays, with 19 sacks, 10 picks, and 6 recovered fumbles. As they look to cover the spread this week against a mistake-prone USC offense, that could be a key. There have been times this season where Colorado looked like they belonged with some of the better teams in the conference and if we focus too heavily on their last game, we could miss the point. More often than not, theyve been at least marginally competitive in spots like this.
Its not clear how much it will matter, but Boulder isnt always the easiest place to play, especially as we get closer to the end of the calendar year. For those who havent been to Boulder, the type of cold that you feel there is something different. Were talking about a bunch of Southern California kids here. Some of them havent had to put a sweater on in 9 months. It can be a shock to the system and prevent you from doing what you want to do athletically when you feel that cold for the first time. Granted, Colorado hasnt covered the spread in their last 4 home games, making one wonder how much home-field advantage really means. But against a squad from L.A., the locale of this game could be something that pays off for the Buffaloes. Then again, maybe its a bad sign to cite things created by Mother Nature when discussing a teams top assets. Colorado will take it however they can get it at this point.
On Saturday, Cody Kessler ran the USC offense well, relying on his backs to do much of the heavy lifting. Kessler still had two TD throws and has been playing well. Ronald Jones, II ran for a huge 177 yards, as Justin Davis rushed for 85 yards. And while it seemed that top receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster would be out with a hand injury, he played and was productive with 138 yards, including a touchdown catch. A leg injury has him questionable for this game. They needed all the production they cold muster against a fired-up Arizona team on Saturday, overcoming a late deficit for the win.
Southern California gave up big chunks of yardage in stretches to the Wildcats, with Zona QB Anu Solomon going for 352 yards. They never came close to looking like they were going to cover the spread. Sometimes, the point totals from this Trojans defense can be a little on the high side. But they have shown some good play this season, as well. We forget that a few weeks ago, USC dominated a top-five unbeaten team in Utah, 42-24, before going into Cal for the tough win. USC was at one point earlier this season a borderline top-five team themselves. Over the past several weeks, we have seen some of the reasons why they were so highly though-of at one time this season.
It is important to contemplate the grit of this Trojans team. They started the season off as a hot property outscoring their first two opponents 115-15. But after suffering three losses in four games, the wheels came off. Their coach was let go. And still, amid all that drama, they have started playing well for interim coach Clay Helton, and can notch a nice bowl berth if they continue winning. But this is where we see what theyre made of, with tough road games here and next week in Oregon.
USC has shown they can win on the road in-conference. And they have taken hold of some good momentum that was hard-earned and they wont be easily dissuaded now. But even though they were mashed up by Stanford on Saturday, this Colorado team still has some fight left in them. They might not be all that competitive or threaten to win, but their fighting spirit and the conditions could help them keep this one halfway respectable.
Scott’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Im betting on the Colorado Buffaloes plus 16 points.
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