Coming off the first loss of the Deion “Coach Prime” Sanders era at Colorado, the defending Heisman Trophy winner and #9 USC Trojans are coming to Boulder. The Buffs will once again be FOX’s Big Noon game on Saturday and the nation’s attention will be centered on Folsom Field to see how Coach Prime, Shedeur Sanders and CU can bounce after last weekend.
After last Saturday’s disappointment, Coach Prime and Colorado’s coaching staff presented a scouting report to the team about themselves earlier in the week.
“We had a scouting report today that was tremendous, that opened a lot of eyes,” said Coach Prime. “The theme of the scouting report was, ‘The truth shall set you free.’ We wanted to really give them the truth about some matters that are going on around here.”
In Tuesday’s video from Reach The People Media, wide receiver Xavier Weaver told Darius Sanders what he learned about himself from the self-scout report.
“It’s a wake-up call man,” said Weaver. “I always wanted to know when the other team does a scouting report, what they would say about me. If that’s what they say about me I need to work harder. I’ve always wanted to hear that.”
Coach Prime and CU’s staff have been blunt yet honest with the team throughout the week and the sense is that the team has refocused and taken the coaching well. After Wednesday’s practice, wide receiver Javon Antonio spoke about how he feels the Buffs have responded.
“I feel like we weren’t focused as much [last week] as we are for this game,” said Antonio. “[This week] we’re taking practice more seriously and we’re more focused.”
Antonio suffered an injury in the lead-up to TCU and still played against the Horned Frogs but was out until last Saturday’s game against Oregon. He had 3 receptions for 42 yards in his return to the field. Replacing Travis Hunter is virtually impossible, but Antonio showed immediate chemistry with Shedeur and showed the value of his frame and size in Sean Lewis’ offense against Oregon.
Cornerbacks Jahquez Robinson and Travis Jay saw game action for the first time this season last weekend. CU’s depth at cornerback and wide receiver has been tested early but protection issues continue to hold back the true potential of Shedeur Sanders and Sean Lewis’ offense.
“You don’t want your quarterback to get touched,” said Coach Prime. “Sometimes [Shedeur] holds it and waits for guys to get open. Sometimes there is nobody open. So it is what it is. We have to fix it.”
Given the way last Saturday’s game went for Colorado, Shedeur has lost momentum in the race for the Heisman but has the opportunity to go toe-to-toe with last year’s winner, Caleb Williams.
Shedeur has faced tremendous pressure all season and will be going up against a USC defense that leads the Power 5 in sacks (16), tackles for a loss (41) and forced fumbles (8). However, USC’s defense is ranked 72nd in yards allowed per game (364.5) and 71st in passing yards allowed per game (228). This weekend may also be an opportunity for Colorado to kickstart their running game as USC is 77th in the country in rushing yards allowed per game (136.5).
“We’ve got to run the ball,” said Coach Prime. “We’ve got to run the ball, not only that, we’ve got to implement a short and intermediate passing game as well. But the main thing, is you’ve got to protect your quarterback.”
Running back Alton McCaskill also saw game action for the first time this season late against Oregon. Now that the former Houston Cougar has received a taste of what it’s like to be back on the field, Colorado could be forced to look to him to generate offensive momentum earlier this weekend.
“[McCaskill] is getting better and better,” said Coach Prime. “We want to see him hit it with more physicality, get the shoulders over a little bit. But as you can see, he has it. He just has to put it together in due time. But he will. I don’t doubt him for nothing. He’s a great running back.”
This could be the last time Colorado plays USC for the foreseeable future as both schools move on to different conferences for 2024 and beyond. The Buffs have never beaten USC but have the offensive firepower to keep up with the Trojans if Saturday’s game turns into a track meet. If Colorado manages to beat USC this weekend, it will be CU’s first win over an AP Top-10 team since 2007 and their highest-ranked win in their Pac-12 era.
Once again, Coach Prime had nothing but respect and good things to say about his opponent this week. Finally, that respect has been reciprocated back towards Coach Prime when USC head coach Lincoln Riley spoke to the USC media on Wednesday.
“I’m looking forward to getting the chance to meet him and visit with him,” said Riley. “I mean, obviously he’s one of the best players that’s ever played our game, and so I think he’ll always have an important place in our game, no matter what. He’s done a great job. I mean, look at the results. There are a lot more similarities in the transformation here and what Coach has done at Colorado than there are not. I see right where he’s coming from. He’s done a great job with the roster.”
After playing in the hostile environment of Autzen Stadium last week, the Buffs have a chance to atone for last week in front of Buff Nation at Folsom Field. USC’s defense will certainly give CU opportunities to drive down the field and put up points but the pressure will be on Colorado’s defense as they go against Caleb Williams and USC’s plethora of wide receivers.
After only generating 11 turnovers the entire season last year, Colorado has already created 11 turnovers this season. While those turnovers may be harder to come by this weekend, if Shedeur Sanders and the Buffs can get out to a quick start and score early, Colorado will certainly give the Trojans trouble.
Coach Prime has said repeatedly throughout the young season that CU has yet to play a complete game. A complete game in the brightest spotlight of the season so far would leave the haters speechless.