After the Buffs lost their best offensive player in Jordyn Tyson, Colorado faces a double whammy as they are on a short week and have to travel to Los Angeles to take on USC.

Colorado is entering Friday night’s matchup as 34-point underdogs and even after last week’s blowout against Oregon, interim head coach Mike Sanford is doing well to block outside noise.

“Nobody’s going to give us a chance but we’re going to go in there with belief,” Sanford said. “That’s what this week’s preparations have been about.”

While it may seem like the Buffs are walking into a buzzsaw, going back to southern California is a homecoming of sorts for many players on Colorado’s roster. One of those players is Montana Lemonious-Craig.

While Lemonious-Craig is in his third year as a Buff, it will be his first trip back home to play in front of family and friends thanks to COVID-19 and the fallout from the pandemic.

“I’m excited to go home and play in front of my family and friends,” Lemonious-Craig said. “But at the end of the day, it’s another game. I’m going to treat it like every other game in terms of my preparation and everything.”

Lemonious-Craig also spoke about the impact of Tyson’s injury and how it will affect him on and off the field.

“He’s like a little brother to me, it really hurt me seeing him go down,” Lemonious-Craig said. “He’s a playmaker. We’ve been a good one-two punch together towards the latter part of the season. We helped play off each other and get each other open conceptually.”

Under coach Sanford’s lead, Colorado’s offense has steadily shown signs of improvement. Now without Tyson, Sanford is expecting multiple players to step up including Lemonious-Craig who will be an honorary captain this week.

“Montana’s role is going to be critical,” Sanford said. “[He] will be a captain this week. He was really excited, almost at a loss for words when we announced that at [Monday’s] team meeting.”

Sanford also mentioned Daniel Arias and Jack Hestera when speaking about who will fill in for Tyson but what he said about R.J. Sneed was particularly notable.

“R.J. Sneed has got to be a guy this week that we utilize a lot in the passing game,” Sanford said.

It’s been a disappointing season for the Baylor transfer who has been hampered by a foot injury dating back to the summer. Sneed only has 16 receptions for 135 yards and no touchdowns through eight games played but will be called upon this week.

Judging by Sanford’s comments, Sneed’s health is finally on the right track and a couple of other key Buffs’ will also be available in full this week.

Deion Smith started the game at running back for CU but was not seen after Colorado’s opening drive, Sanford expects him to be ready to go this week. During Sunday night’s Zoom press conference, Sanford revealed that safety Trevor Woods was dealing with an injury but he also expects Woods to be ready for Friday night.

Owen McCown has not played in a game since J.T. Shrout replaced him late in the win over Cal. While Shrout is expected to start at quarterback once again, it appears that McCown is healthy and still helping the team in regard to preparation.

With Caleb Williams and his improvisational quarterbacking style on the schedule this week, McCown has been acting as Williams on the scout team offense this week.

“In terms of style of play and extending plays, Owen has really challenged our defense a lot this week,” Sanford said.

McCown has played in four games this season and if he were to play in another, he would lose the ability to redshirt this season. Reading between the lines of Sanford’s comments about the true freshman, Buffs’ fans should not expect to see McCown again this season.

CU will be fighting an uphill battle against USC but the Trojans allowed Cal to hang around and stay within one possession at multiple points in last week’s game. While the Buffs are even bigger underdogs this week than they were last week against Oregon, they should not have to deal with the windy conditions that made things difficult at Folsom Field last week.

Friday night’s game will be broadcasted nationally on FS1 at 7:30 p.m. MST.


Jake Schwanitz was born in Harlingen, Texas and was raised in Albuquerque, NM. Jake attended the University of New Mexico earning a bachelor's degree in journalism in 2016. He gained experience in analytics and scouting while working as a Football Video Scout at Sports Info Solutions in 2017 and 2018. Jake became an intern at DNVR in 2020 and became the full-time CU Buffs beat reporter for DNVR starting with the 2022 football season.