Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Friday, November 13, 2015

2015 CU vs USC Football Teaser

I hope you all got a taste of my basketball coverage this week.  Of course, it all started Tuesday morning when my 6th annual Massive Basketball Preview hit the interwebs - essentially a 20,000 manifesto for the coming season.  As if that wasn't enough, I also teased today's game with the Iowa State Cyclones, and appeared on a two-hour basketball round-table podcast with @RyanKoenigsberg, @BBadss, @BeauGamble14, and @CUGoose.  You want hoops content?  I got you covered, dude.

All that basketball talk, however, has left me hopelessly pressed for time.  In response, I'm going to revert to my standard practice for the early weeks of basketball season for the final home football game of the year - a teaser, rather than a full preview.  Slightly more narrative than the formulaic rigidity of my typical football fare, the teaser format allows me to hit the highlights of the matchup, talk about their star players and coaching issues, predict a final score, and do it all in an economy of words.  It's the perfect remedy to a time crunch.

But, enough of that gibberish, straight to the action!


Hype Music for the Week: "Achilles Last Stand"

It has always bothered me that USC named their athletic teams after a failed city-state in Western Turkey. At the height of their power, as legend would tell us, the Trojans were laid waste by a Greek trap - the infamous Trojan Horse.  So, not only were they doomed to the side pages of history, they were gullible. Interesting choice of mascot.

As for the song, Achilles may not have survived the Trojan War, but he sure did slaughter a whole bunch of his Trojan enemies in the pursuit of the goal.  Since the Greeks won - and a 'W' is a 'W' - I give you "Achilles Last Stand" in his honor. Enjoy!


Kick off from beautiful, frigid Folsom Field is set for 7pm this evening.  Holy Tad, what am I doing still here at work!  I have to get to Boulder and get to tailgate'n'!  If you're headed up the hill with me, remember to wear black.  For those of you unable/unwilling to fight the traffic up to Boulder this evening, you can find televised coverage on ESPN2, with the radio call on 850 KOA.

Click below for the teaser...

The last time the Buffs and Trojans met on the gridiron, we saw what we've usually seen in this series: a USC blowout victory. In true #BuffShit fashion, Colorado couldn't get out of their own way, committing crippling penalties, gifting a pair of head-shaking turnovers, and generally playing haphazard football throughout the first half.  The Trojans happily took advantage, soaring behind QB Cody Kessler's record seven touchdown tosses.  Caught in the between the rock of their own mistakes and the hard place of a superior opponent, there was just no way out. CU fell behind 28-0 before they could even begin to mount a comeback, and slumped home to a 56-28 final.
Kessler sure had himself a day against the Buffs last fall.
Of course, that result last year was nothing new.  USC has routinely toyed with CU throughout the two programs' history. In fact, they've never lost to the Buffs, winning all nine all-time matchups by an average score of 37 to 11.5.  While you couldn't really call what we've seen the last two seasons close, at least the final scores were slightly more respectable than they had been in the past; Colorado scored more points against USC in '13 and '14 than they had in the previous seven meetings combined.  The issue has been, and probably always will be, that the Trojans just bring more talent to the table each and every meeting.  As any high school driving instructor would tell you, speed kills, and it has routinely done so against CU.

It's the same this year, with the Trojans as loaded in their two-deep as ever.  The bevy of four- and five-star recruits is lead by returning QB Cody Kessler.  After knifing the Buffs for those seven scores last fall, the senior veteran of two previous starting campaigns has continued to put up impressive numbers this fall, throwing for over 2,500 yards and 20 scores through nine games in 2015.  Behind him, the Trojans have posed the 6th-best passing efficiency in the country, while generating 480 total yards per game.  It's what you always expect from SC - a prototypical pro-style QB back in the pocket dropping dimes.
Ain't no one better than Smith-Schuster at hauling in yardage. From: Bleacher Report.
While Kessler is a fantastic QB by his own right, his numbers are greatly assisted by some elite-level talent in the receiving corps.  The #1 threat, sophomore wideout JuJu Smith-Schuster, is a first round pick waiting to happen, having already put up 60 grabs for 1,094 yards and nine scores. There may be no better receiver in all of college football right now, certainly not in the Pac-12. He may be a little banged up (all indications that he'll be ready to go this evening), but should still be good for another 100-yard effort against CU.  Beyond just JuJu, however, the Trojans count an additional nine receivers who have totaled at least 100 yards this season -- especially don't sleep on the all-world speed of Adoree' Jackson.  The sophomore plays two-way football (also shines as a cornerback), and stands as one of the best return men in the country. In the back field, USC has relied on a troika of backs this fall, headlined by true freshman Ronald Jones; eight yards per carry, yo!  Heralded backup Tre Madden, however, will miss the game with a bone bruise, leaving their runningback corps slightly undermanned.

On the defensive end, the big story has been the emergence at linebacker of freshman Cameron Smith.  The Roseville, CA product leads the Trojans in tackles and interceptions, and looks to be a good one for years to come.  He sustained a right shoulder injury last week, requiring an MRI, but should still be on the field tonight.  Right next to Cameron in the middle of the defensive action is outside wrecking ball linebacker Su'a Cravens. The junior NFL prospect has already found his way to 10 tackles for loss this season, and seems like a sure bet to add to that total today.  Further down the list, inside tackle Delvon Simmons is a load, while freshman corner Iman Marshall is striking a scary-good pose in the defensive backfield.  Lots of explosive, young talent, who, overall, have come together to hold a slew of high scoring opponents under 23 points per game this fall.
Cameron Smith is already a team leader at inside linebacker.  From: Fox Sports.
The problem with USC since the final days of the Pete Carroll, though, has been coaching.  They've had all the talent in the world, even while dealing with NCAA sanctions, but just never the right guy at the helm. First it was KiffyKins, a world-class fuck-up (seriously, despite never winning anything of note, he always seems to fail upwards) who was about as ill-suited as anyone ever to run the show in LA.  His immediate successor, interim head coach Ed Orgeron, lead USC on a 6-1 run through the Pac-12 South in 2013, but was not retained... for some reason.  Instead, the Trojans turned to offenisve guru (and former Trojan assistant) Steve Sarkisian, and... well... we all know how that turned out.  It's been five years of constant turmoil under the headset, turmoil that has stunted the ability of the program to turn undeniable treasure troves of talent into anything meaningful.

The reigns are now being held by yet another interim coach: Clay Helton.  Destined to be a stop-gap, Helton has at least gotten his charges to play well for him.  He's 3-1 in charge, with the lone loss coming in South Bend at the hands of the top-10 Notre Dame Fighting Irish.  In league play, he has, so far, run the table, earning solid wins over teams like Utah, Cal, and Arizona.  A three-game winning streak, and, just like that, the Trojans are back in the hunt for a division title.  They hold the tie-breaker over Southern leader Utah, and have a game in-hand against rival UCLA.  With a little luck, and three more wins, they could very well be the Pac-12 South's representative in December at Levi's Stadium.  It doesn't really matter, though, as, even if Helton were to win-out, USC would be back on the prowl for another head coach, one probably just as ill-suited for the LA limelight as the last two.
Clay Helton looks to follow the footsteps of Ed Orgeron into interim greatness.  From: ESPN
That leaves me with the crux of the matter: my prediction.  I was less than accurate the last two weeks, picking a blowout in the Rose Bowl and a closer affair against Stanford.  The opposite was true in each case, with the Buffs hanging tough against the Bruins, even looking like they'd win for a time, before coming home to get taken back behind the woodshed by the Cardinal.  With those misses behind me, my record for the year stands as follows:

My 2015 record: 9-1. Against the spread: 5-4. Optimistic/pessimistic: CU 0.44 pts/gm
Line as of Wednesday @ 7pm - CU +16.5, O/U 60.5

In this one, I just look at it as another case of condition: normal.  The Trojans are, once again, dealing with coaching drama, but are nonetheless more than equipped to roll over Colorado.  I don't care how cold it's going to get tomorrow, I don't care about the awesomeness that is Folsom at night.  It certainly won't matter that it's senior night for great Buffs like Nelson Spruce and Stephane Nembot.  USC is going to do what they always do when faced with a herd of Buffaloes - slaughter them mercilessly.

USC 51 - CU 24


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