How USC and Colorado match up in what could be a clincher for the Trojans

Colorado running back Phillip Lindsay heads down the field for a long gain against California on Oct. 28.
(David Zalubowski / Associated Press)

No. 11 USC (8-2, 6-1 in the Pac-12) vs. Colorado (5-5, 2-5)

Saturday, 1 p.m. PT, Folsom Field, Boulder, Colo., TV: FOX. Radio: 710

Marquee matchup

USC run defense vs. Phillip Lindsay: Lindsay is Colorado’s workhorse. He averages 26.5 carries per game and, earlier this season, received 41 carries and ran for 281 yards and three touchdowns against Arizona. “Lindsay just jumps out all over the tape,” USC coach Clay Helton said. Lindsay has rushed for 1,334 yards this season. A week ago, USC’s run defense held Arizona’s explosive quarterback, Khalil Tate, to his worst game of the season, though Tate still managed 161 rushing yards.

Getting offensive

USC (492.4 ypg/35.2 ppg): Quarterback Sam Darnold has returned to form after an uneven start. In his last five games, he has thrown 13 touchdowns with just three interceptions. He has averaged 296 passing yards per game. His completion rate has been 63%. USC leaned heavily on Ronald Jones II last week. In his last two games, Jones has rushed for a combined 410 yards with five touchdowns.


Colorado (420.6 ypg/28.0 ppg): Colorado’s quarterback, Then a freshman, Steven Montez, made his first career start last season against USC. He completed 62.5% of his passes for 197 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Montez averages 240 passing yards per game this season with 16 touchdowns and seven interceptions, and he spreads the ball out to multiple targets. Shay Fields, Bryce Bobo and Devin Ross each has more than 450 receiving yards this season.

Getting defensive

USC (393.2 ypg/26.7 ppg): USC leads the nation in sacks (34) and ranks seventh in sacks per game. Two USC players sit atop the conference sack leaderboard: defensive end Rasheem Green (7.0) and outside linebacker Christian Rector (6.5). Rector could return from a broken hand that sidelined him for two games. And cornerback Iman Marshall, who sprained his knee and also missed two games, could play in a limited capacity.

Colorado (439.4 ypg/26.6 ppg): The Buffaloes rank second to last in the Pac-12 in rush defense (199 yards per game) and seventh in pass defense (240). Javier Edwards, a 350-pound nose tackle, anchors the inside and “is just a force,” Helton said. Safety Evan Worthington is instinctive and speedy and has three interceptions.

Something special

USC freshman walk-on kicker Chase McGrath has an injured groin and has not practiced this week. Helton said longer kicks could be an issue. Punter Reid Budrovich will take over kickoff duties.


Colorado’s freshman kicker, James Stefanou, has made 89% of his field goals, second-highest among the 20 Lou Groza Award semifinalists. He has a long of 53 yards.

Of note

USC has never lost to Colorado and is 11-0 all-time. … Colorado’s season-ticket sales jumped 16% from last season after winning the Pac-12 South division.

Local ties

Colorado has 36 Californians on the roster, including the following starters: receivers Bobo (Covina), Fields (Bellflower) and Ross (Altadena), left guard Gerrad Kough (Pomona), right guard Aaron Haigler (Northridge), right tackle Josh Kaiser (Mission Viejo), tight end George Frazier (Duarte) and linebacker Rick Gamboa (Sylmar).


Twitter: @zhelfand