No. 8 USC looks to remain perfect in all-time series with Colorado

Matching its best start since the 2008 season, No. 8 USC looks to remain in the conversation for the College Football Playoff when it hosts Pac-12 Conference counterpart Colorado on Friday in Los Angeles.

The Trojans (8-1, 6-1 Pac-12) rode quarterback Caleb Williams’ five total touchdowns — four passing and one rushing — and an early cushion to overcome defensive miscues in a 41-35 defeat of Cal last week.

The win marked USC’s third consecutive game scoring at least 41 points, bumping its season average to 41 points per game — seventh-best in the nation — but was also the Trojans’ third straight contest yielding at least 35 points.

USC gave up 43 points in a one-point loss at Utah on Oct. 15, and 37 in an eight-point win Oct. 29 at Arizona.

“We do a lot of great things, a lot of the time. It’s just about doing it every single play,” Trojans linebacker Shane Lee said during Tuesday’s media availability. “(Defensive coordinator Alex Grinch) always challenges us to look at ourselves and see what we can do better … That’s what you have to do if you want to get better and be a part of team: Be critical of yourself.”

The USC defense has excelled at generating turnovers, boasting 18 through nine games. Coupled with Williams’ savvy play at quarterback — he has thrown 28 touchdown passes against one interception — the Trojans enjoy the nation’s best turnover margin at plus-16 for the season.

Colorado (1-8, 1-5) will try to jump-start its struggling offense, which ranks worst among all Power Five-conference teams and ahead of only Colorado State and Massachusetts in FBS scoring averages.

The Buffs are producing 15.6 points per game, backsliding after a promising, 34-point effort in an Oct. 29 loss to Arizona State. Colorado managed 10 points in a 39-point loss to Oregon last week.

The Buffs have never beaten USC in program history, a streak encompassing 15 games and dating back to 1927. Since Colorado joined the Pac-12 in 2011, the Trojans have won the 10 meetings by an average of 17.4 points per game — though three of the last six were decided by four points or fewer.

Colorado running back Anthony Hankerson told the Daily Camera that USC is a “good team, but they suit up pads just like us.”

“They bleed just like how we bleed and it’s football,” Hankerson said. “Anybody could win and you don’t have to be the best team, but as long as you’re the best team that day when you play, you’re good.”

The Buffs will have to avoid giving up possessions to have hope of an upset. Their 18 giveaways rank Colorado among the most turnover-prone teams in the country.

J.T. Shrout — Colorado’s season-opener at starting quarterback but sidelined in conference games against UCLA and Arizona while freshman Owen McCown started — captained the Buffs down the stretch of their lone win, Oct. 22 in overtime against Cal.

For the season, however, Shrout has thrown as many interceptions as touchdowns with six each.

–Field Level Media