Before each game this USC football season, Annenberg Media’s sports staff will make prop predictions and pick a winner. Read on to see our editors’ picks for Week 5 against Colorado.
Although USC has had two atrocious defensive performances, allowing more than 40 points twice in the last three weeks, they’ll have better luck on the defensive end this week. Colorado may have put up 35 points against Northern Colorado, but their offense has been anemic, as they have yet to have a quarterback throw for over 100 yards since that win. No matter how dynamic Colorado’s run game is, it’s tough to score 35 points without a passing attack. The Trojans won’t allow more than 35 points, but that is a testament to the struggles of Colorado more than the strength of the Trojan defense. Donte Williams is a great defensive mind, but the Trojans are still figuring things out as they move on from the Clay Helton era.
– Skyler Trepel
Interim head coach Donte Williams is slowly, but surely, making some changes to the football program. Among them is his usage at running back, where he is incorporating Keaontay Ingram more into the offense, seemingly making him the lead back. Last week against Oregon State, Ingram had 14 carries to Vavae Malepeai’s four. And in an otherwise disappointing game for the Trojans, Ingram averaged an impressive 5.6 yards per carry, demonstrating that he is capable of taking on a larger role.
Outside of performance, there’s also the premise of a new coach choosing his guys. Sixth-year Malepeai has been a consummate pro throughout his USC tenure, but he represents a holdover from the Clay Helton years. Williams will want to put his own fingerprints on the program, and a change at running back is a start.
– Eddie Sun
Among USC’s few bright spots this season has been the field goal kicking from sophomore Parker Lewis. He’s 6-for-6 on the young season, and some of his conversions — including his season-long 46-yarder — have looked like they would’ve hit from 10 yards deeper.
USC’s offensive struggles in the red zone this year are no joke, even though I will concede that coordinator Graham Harrell’s red zone play-calling has dramatically improved the last couple weeks (final score against Oregon State notwithstanding). Still, I don’t have full confidence in the Trojans to convert in the red zone every time, and given how many times they should (emphasis on should) get there against a subpar Colorado defense, Lewis should have plenty of opportunities.
Also, I had a dream the other night that USC lined Lewis up for a 65-yard field goal attempt. That has to mean something. Combine that with the Rocky Mountain air that should make his strong right leg even stronger, and Lewis should be in for a field day — or, should I say, field (goal) day — against the Buffs.
– Nathan Ackerman
Q: Will Colorado rush for more than 150 yards?
USC’s defense had no response to Oregon State’s rushing attack last Saturday, giving up an astounding 322 yards on the ground. While the Buffalo attack most likely won’t be as much of a stampede, 150 yards is not a stretch: Colorado averages 154 yards a game and USC allows 157.5 yards a game. Especially being that quarterback freshman Brendon Lewis is completing only 52.1% of his passes on just over 20 attempts per game, it would not be a surprise for running backs sophomore Jarek Broussard or junior Alex Fontenot to lead the offense.
Combine those statistics with the fact that Boulder has four players averaging over 20 yards a game, and USC’s defense is in trouble. Junior linebacker Drake Jackson and the defense did not record a single sack last weekend, so this could be a chance for the Buffalo rushing attack to get back on track.
– Ava Brand
I think it’s highly unlikely USC wins enough games in the remainder of the season to win the Pac-12 South. Losses to Oregon State and Stanford, who the Trojans were expected to beat, have put them in a tough spot with harder games coming up. If USC looks anything like it has up to this point, the Trojans will almost certainly lose to No. 9 Notre Dame and No. 13 BYU, and Arizona State and No. 20 UCLA have all looked better than USC so far. UCLA, despite a last minute loss to Fresno State, has looked very strong, and Arizona State has only lost to No. 13 BYU.
Arizona State and UCLA play each other this Saturday, meaning one of them will improve to 4-1, and the other will drop to 3-2, giving USC an opportunity to match that overall record, despite already having two conference losses. USC will have to play both of these quality teams later in the season, and I don’t see the Trojans beating both teams and ultimately finishing with a better record than either of them.
– Wyatt Allsup