USC-Colorado: A look at how the teams match up

USC wide receiver Tyler Vaughns (21) evades an Arizona defender in the first half on Sept. 29 in Tucson, Ariz.
(Rick Scuteri / Associated Press)

USC (3-2, 2-1) vs. No. 19 Colorado (5-0, 2-0)

Saturday, 7:30 p.m., Coliseum. TV: FS1. Radio: 710.

Marquee matchup

USC defensive backs vs. Colorado wide receiver Laviska Shenault. For Buffaloes fans who want to see Shenault become the school’s first Heisman Trophy winner since Rashaan Salaam in 1994, Saturday is their night — if it becomes his night as it could. Colorado won’t have many stages like a national broadcast on FS1 against USC in the Coliseum, the latest installment of “Pac-12 After Dark,” to showcase its star receiver. Shenault has arguably been college football’s best playmaker, challenging defenses on the outside with his deep-ball skills and turning in four touchdown runs out of the “Wildcat” formation in five carries. USC defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast compared him to former NFL wide receiver Anquan Boldin, who was a quarterback recruit at Florida State before moving to the receiver position. Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre will have new ways for Shenault to beat the Trojans, and it will be up to a USC defense which has been susceptible to explosive plays to contain him.


Getting offensive

USC (390.8 ypg/24.6 ppg): USC’s “three-headed monster” of Aca’Cedric Ware, Stephen Carr and Vavae Malepeai got rolling in the Trojans’ wins over Washington State and Arizona. When Ware had to sit out against the Cougars to rest a sore knee, Malepeai and Carr combined for 155 yards. When Ware returned against Arizona, he rushed for 173 yards and two touchdowns, including a 69-yard run for a score.

Colorado (490.6 ypg/37.8 ppg): Quarterback Steven Montez and Shenault get most of the attention with good reason, but running back Travon McMillian, a graduate transfer from Virginia Tech, is just as much a part of the Buffaloes’ success. McMillian runs hard between the tackles and has been able to keep defenses honest by averaging 105.6 yards per game on the ground.

Getting defensive

USC (381.2 ypg/26.2 ppg): The USC defense comes into the game a bit wounded. Leading tackler Cameron Smith is questionable to play with a mild hamstring strain, and true freshman Palaie Gaoteote IV would see a lot of time in place of him. The Trojans got their third turnover of the season against Arizona on their first interception. They are hoping to swing the field in their favor a few more times this week.

Colorado (355 ypg/18.4 ppg): The Buffaloes are led by linebacker Nate Landman, who has 44 tackles and two interceptions this season. Colorado gets after the quarterback with Mustafa Johnson, who has 9.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks.


Something special

After having a field goal blocked and returned for a touchdown against Texas, USC has blocked field goals in consecutive games. Jay Tufele’s block of a Washington State field-goal attempt sealed the Trojans’ 39-36 win.

Of note

USC quarterback JT Daniels ranks fifth nationally in passes completed of 40 or more yards with eight.

Injury report

As of Thursday night, USC coach Clay Helton put Smith’s odds of playing at “50-50 at best.” Porter Gustin (ankle) said he expects to play Saturday. The Trojans may be without Tufele, who was a passenger in a car accident during the week off.


Twitter: @BradyMcCollough