CU Buffs vs. USC football: 4 things to know, key matchups and predictions

CU Buffs (1-8, 1-5 Pac-12) at No. 8 Southern Cal (8-1, 6-1)

When/where: 7:30 p.m. Friday/L.A. Memorial Coliseum

TV/Radio: FS1/850 AM, 94.1 FM

Line: USC -34.5, 65.5 over/under

Weather: 58 degrees, clear

What to know

Running out of weapons: Just when it appeared the Buffs had found their home-run hero, freshman wide receiver Jordyn Tyson suffered a season-ending “lower leg injury” last Saturday against Oregon. Now? It’s back to the drawing board with sophomore Montana Lemonious-Craig and senior Daniel Arias the Buffs’ best hope for generating big plays against a Trojans defense (95th in total defense, 409.2 yards allowed/game) more than happy to give them up.

Another familiar face: Last week, it was former CU cornerback Christian Gonzalez who came back to haunt the Buffs with two interceptions, one of which he nearly returned for a TD. This week it’s former CU receiver Brenden Rice and defensive back Mekhi Blackmon in Cardinal and Gold. While Blackmon made an immediate impact at SC with two interceptions in his first four games — including a game-saving pick at Oregon State — Rice (23 receptions, 266 yards) has topped 50 yards receiving in a game just twice.

Freaky Fridays: The Pac-12’s Friday night games are notoriously hard on the visiting team, but for CU they are just plain hard. The Buffs have played 10 short-week Friday night games since joining the conference in 2011 — games played on just five days rest — and are 2-8 in those contests. That includes three losses to USC and four losses in five games away from Boulder. Their lone Friday night road win: 17-14 at Utah in 2011.

Ball control: The Trojans don’t just take care of the football, they hold on to it with a vice grip. Up until last week’s 41-35 win over Cal, USC hadn’t lost a fumble all season. While that streak came to an end against Cal, QB Caleb Williams hasn’t thrown an interception in four games and has just one for the season — while also tossing 28 touchdown passes.

Key matchups

USC RB Travis Dye vs. CU LB Josh Chandler-Semedo: With 2021 Biletnikoff Award winner Jordan Addison expected to return to the USC lineup after two weeks away, CU is about to get the full Lincoln Riley Car Wash. But more important than containing the Trojans’ array of receivers is keeping Dye, an Oregon transfer, from busting loose. If USC can run it, game over.

USC DL Tuli Tuipulotu vs. CU O-line: The Trojans defense thrives on big plays — turnovers, sacks and tackles for loss. And the 6-foot-4, 290-pound Tuipulotu (nine sacks, 15 TFLs) is one of the keys to producing those. Keep him away from CU quarterback J.T. Shrout, and the Buffs just might be able to move the ball on a defense that’s 109th in the nation in passing yards allowed (267 per game).

Predictions

Sean Keeler, sports columnist: USC 42, CU 17

The dirty little secret is the Men of Troy have been living dangerously much of the last month, surrendering an average of 38.3 points per game to Utah (good offense), Arizona (capable offense) and, um … Cal (offense that only scored 13 points in Boulder). I mean, Cal? If USC DC Alex Grinch is auditioning to become a head coach — and he’d come comparatively cheap, CU fans — his defensive performances ain’t exactly making the most compelling case right now.

Matt Schubert, deputy sports editor: USC 52, CU 20

The last time these two met on a Friday night, Mel Tucker’s Buffs were 15 minutes away from ending a 13-game skid against USC inside a chilly Folsom Field before Clay Helton’s Trojans rallied with two fourth-quarter TDs. Oh, how long ago that feels.

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