For the last several weeks, USC Coach Lane Kiffin repeatedly has said he did not care about gaudy offensive statistics, scores or records — only winning.
But as the No. 11 Trojans prepared for Saturday’s game against Colorado at the Coliseum, Kiffin showed that he was numbers conscious.
“You’re a 40-point favorite,” a reporter said, before Kiffin quickly interjected, “41.”
Stanford proved in 2007 that anything is possible — beating the Trojans in one of the biggest upsets in college football history — but USC is expected to easily defeat Colorado before playing five tough games to finish the regular season.
And while there’s opportunity to score points in the Bowl Championship Series beauty contest, Kiffin said he would not leave starters in against Colorado, or any opponent, if the Trojans are in control in the second half.
“Our goal is to win the game,” he said, “and to stay as healthy as possible.”
After spending most of the first half of the season on the road, the Trojans regard Saturday’s sold-out home game as an unofficial celebration.
Barring injuries that could mar the game and USC’s stretch run, some milestones could be reached.
Senior quarterback Matt Barkley needs four touchdown passes to surpass USC Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinart’s conference record of 99.
Junior receiver Robert Woods needs five catches to move past Dwayne Jarrett, USC’s all-time receptions leader with 216.
“We’d love for those guys to go and do that before their family and friends,” Kiffin said.
The records could fall in the first half, perhaps the first quarter, against a Colorado team that has only one victory and has given up 41 points a game.
So, don’t look for those third-and-long running plays that Kiffin repeatedly called last week against Washington.
At least not until the game is well in hand.
USC, 5-1 overall and 3-1 in the Pac-12 Conference, this week debuted at No. 10 in the first BCS standings.
Colorado is 1-5 and 1-2, its only victory coming against Washington State.
“We’re trying to treat it like they’re the top team in the Pac-12,” Woods said.
USC won’t have to pretend when No. 2 Oregon comes to the Coliseum in two weeks.
In the interim, the Trojans will try to work through their problems — penalties, poor third-down efficiency and an underachieving passing game to name a few — and avoid a stumble.
Kiffin brought back game officials to practice this week, hoping to correct issues that have led to a nation-worst 10 penalties per game.
The miscues have cost the Trojans at least two touchdowns and also stifled numerous drives.
Barkley, who passed for six touchdowns against Colorado last season, was poised and efficient against Utah on Oct. 4 but completed only 10 of 20 passes against Washington.
Meanwhile, USC’s defense will try to build on its mostly solid play.
Led by an improving line that has recorded 21 sacks, the unit is causing turnovers and creating scoring opportunities. The Trojans have 11 interceptions — two more than last season’s total — and have recovered five fumbles.
The defense’s performance has taken pressure off the offense, which has rarely flashed its big-play potential.
Barkley, Woods and others will be out to change that against Colorado.
“Hopefully,” Kiffin said of the passing game, “we’ll hit our stride like we did last year right about this time.”