Opponent preview: Colorado Buffaloes

LOS ANGELES -- Riding a wave of momentum following a 20-17 win over Stanford, No. 23 USC (8-3 overall, 5-2 Pac-12) hits the road to take on Colorado (4-6 overall, 1-6 Pac-12) this Saturday. For a Trojans team that is 5-1 under interim coach Ed Orgeron, a Buffaloes squad that has struggled certainly doesn't appear to present much of a challenge. Still, Colorado is coming off an emotional 41-24 victory over California that snapped a 14-game conference losing streak, so spirits are high for first-year head coach Mike MacIntyre and Co. Throw in the fact that the Buffs have the added incentive of needing to win both of their remaining games to become bowl eligible, and it’s safe to say that the Trojans don’t want to take this matchup lightly.


Scoring: 25.9 points per game (No. 11 Pac-12, No. 82 overall)

Rushing: 127.8 yards per game (No. 9 Pac-12, No. 100 overall)

Passing: 252.8 yards per game (No. 8 Pac-12, No. 48 overall)

Total: 380.6 yards per game (No. 12 Pac-12, No. 86 overall)

Quarterback: No. 13 Sefo Liufau (6-foot-4, 210 pounds, Fr.)

Taking over as the Buffaloes starting quarterback halfway through the schedule, Liufau has made steady progress, but he’s still prone to making the occasional freshman mistake. Directing an offensive attack that operates out of multiple sets, he threw for a career-high 364 yards last weekend, and on the season, he’s completed 63.4 percent of his passes for 1,350 yards and eight touchdowns with six interceptions.

Running Back: No. 46 Christian Powell (6-0, 230, So.), No. 19 Michael Adkins II (5-10, 200, Fr.), No. 26 Tony Jones (5-7, 190, Jr.), FB No. 47 Alex Wood (6-2, 235, Sr.)

Colorado will generally run the ball slightly more than it passes, and the workhorse is the bruising Powell, who paces the team with 509 yards on the ground. Adkins is a shiftier option who averages 5.5 yards per carry.

Wide Receiver: No. 6 Paul Richardson (6-1, 170, Jr.), No. 22 Nelson Spruce (6-1, 205, So.), No. 3 D.D. Goodson (5-6, 170, Jr.)

Richardson is the star of the offense, averaging 120.1 receiving yards per game -- the No. 4 mark in the FBS. The sure-handed Spruce, meanwhile, is coming off a 140-yard receiving effort last week.

Tight End: No. 99 Scott Fernandez (6-3, 250, Sr.), No. 88 Kyle Slavin (6-4, 240, Jr.), No. 81 Sean Irwin (6-3, 235, Fr.)

The tight ends haven’t been utilized particularly often as weapons in the passing game, compiling a total of just 14 catches this fall.

Offensive Line: LT No. 75 Jack Harris (6-7, 295, Sr.), LG No. 54 Kaiwi Crabb (6-3, 300, Jr.), C No. 55 Gus Handler (6-3, 290, Sr.), RG No. 52 Daniel Munyer (6-2, 290, Jr.), RT No. 77 Stephane Nembot (6-7, 305, So.)

On the whole, the offensive line is performing at a much higher level than they did a year ago, allowing an average of just 1.5 sacks per game, compared to 4.2 sacks per game in 2012. In the run-blocking department, however, they haven’t been nearly as efficient, and the Buffs average just 3.5 yards per rush -- the No. 105 mark in the FBS.


Scoring: 38.8 points per game (No. 11 Pac-12, No. 114 overall)

Rushing: 210.4 yards per game (No. 12 Pac-12, No. 103 overall)

Passing: 267.5 yards per game (No. 11 Pac-12, No. 108 overall)

Total: 477.9 yards per game (No. 11 Pac-12, No. 110 overall)

Defensive Line: No. 56 Juda Parker (6-2, 245, Jr.), No. 55 Josh Tupou (6-3, 305, So.), No. 57 Justin Solis (6-1, 305, So.), No. 96 Chidera Uzo-Diribe (6-3, 245, Sr.)

Colorado hasn’t received much production from this group this season, with the Buffs ranking dead-last in the conference in sacks (14) and yards allowed per rush (five). Still, the Trojans will need to pay attention to Uzo-Diribe.

Linebacker: No. 44 Addison Gillam (6-3, 225, Fr.), No. 1 Derrick Webb (6-0, 225, Sr.), No. 37 Woodson Greer (6-3, 220, Jr.)

The fast and physical Gillam has made a tremendous impact in his freshman campaign, leading the Buffaloes defense with 99 tackles. Greer has missed the last two games due to neck stingers, and is listed as questionable.

Cornerback: No. 2 Kenneth Crawley (6-1, 165, So.), No. 20 Greg Henderson (5-11, 190, Jr.)

Without a significant pass rush, the Colorado defensive backs have struggled in coverage, although they did shut down California’s potent passing attack. Henderson has been the playmaker of the bunch, leading the conference with 14 passes defended, including four interceptions.

Safety: No. 21 Jered Bell (6-1, 195, Jr.), No. 13 Parker Orms (5-11, 190, Sr.), No. 4 Chidobe Awuzie (6-0, 190, Fr.)

Orms sets the tone as a hard-hitting veteran with 25 career starts to his credit, but he missed last week’s contest with a shoulder injury. He’s currently listed as probable, and MacIntyre said on Tuesday that he believes he will play against USC. Bell has been active at his free safety spot, collecting three picks, while Awuzie comes in at nickel back.

Special Teams

Punter: No. 8 Darragh O’Neill (6-2, 190, Jr.)

O’Neill averages 40.8 yards per punt.

Kicker: No. 28 Will Oliver (5-11, 190, Jr.)

Oliver has hit 16 of 23 field goal attempts, while also sending 22 of his 50 kickoffs back for touchbacks.

Punt returner: No. 22 Nelson Spruce (6-1, 205, So.)

Spruce has failed to find much room to run this fall, averaging just five yards per return.

Kick returner: No. 30 Ryan Severson (5-10, 200, Fr.), No. 22 Nelson Spruce (6-1, 205, So.)

Severson is No. 4 in the Pac-12 averaging 22.8 yards per kick return.