Warning signs, real or imagined: USC is coming off an emotional, triple-overtime loss against unbeaten Stanford; Colorado hasn't won a league game in its first year in the Pacific 12 Conference and would make its season with a big upset at home. Staff writer Gary Klein examines the game's issues and matchups:
It probably seems like it, but not every star receiver from Gardena Serra High winds up at USC.
The Trojans have sophomore Robert Woods and freshmen Marqise Lee and George Farmer. Colorado has Paul Richardson.
Richardson, a sophomore, is expected to play against USC after being sidelined four games because of a knee injury.
Richardson caught 11 passes for a school-record 284 yards and scored two touchdowns in Colorado's 36-33 overtime loss to California on Sept. 10. Despite being sidelined, he still has a team-best 29 receptions, five for touchdowns.
"He's kind of more like Robert [Woods]," USC Coach Lane Kiffin said. "If you give him space, he can take off and go, and then all of a sudden your angles disappear."
USC's Matt Barkley has passed for 22 touchdowns with five interceptions and supposedly moved up NFL draft boards with a three-touchdown, one-interception performance against Stanford.
Barkley does not expect to be bothered by the expected 30-degree temperature in Boulder, Colo., citing winter vacations spent at his grandparents' home in the Berkshire Mountains in Massachusetts, where he "played outside with no shirt on."
"On the porch there was a Jacuzzi and we'd run out and do snow angels," he said. "I don't think it will be snowing [at game time], but if it does we'll be ready for it."
USC has not played a game in snow since 1957, when the Trojans lost, 40-12, at Notre Dame.
Colorado's Tyler Hansen, a senior who played at Murrieta Chaparral High, has passed for 14 touchdowns with six interceptions.
Curtis McNeal has been waiting four years for a chance to start at tailback for USC.
The 5-foot-7 McNeal is coming off a 145-yard, two-touchdown performance against Stanford, an effort spoiled by his fumble on the final play. Cold conditions in Colorado are not necessarily conducive to the passing game, so McNeal might be asked to carry a heavy load.
Senior Marc Tyler did not practice this week because of a shoulder injury. The Trojans' other options are freshman Amir Carlisle and redshirt freshman D.J. Morgan.
Colorado is hoping running back Rodney Stewart returns after a two-game absence because of a knee injury. Stewart has rushed for 473 yards and also has 435 receiving yards.
It's going to be a busy weekend for Sammy Knight, the former USC and NFL safety who as a graduate assistant coach oversees a secondary that could include two safeties starting for the first time this season.
Drew McAllister will start in place of T.J. McDonald, who was suspended by the Pac-12 for the first half for an illegal hit against Stanford. With Jawanza Starling questionable because of an unspecified injury, Marshall Jones could start opposite McAllister.
McAllister, a 6-1, 205-pound junior, has never started a game for the Trojans. He intercepted three passes as a freshman in 2008. Jones, a 5-11, 180-pound senior, started four games last season, intercepting a pass against Notre Dame.
On Saturday, Knight will be inducted into the New Orleans Saints Hall of Fame. Knight played for the Saints from 1997 through 2002. He had 28 interceptions, returning four for touchdowns.
This will be USC's first visit to Boulder since 2002, when 17th-ranked USC blew out 18th-ranked Colorado, 40-3. At the time, it was Colorado's worst loss since 1992 and its worst home loss since 1983.... USC is 5-0 against Colorado…. USC running backs coach Kennedy Polamalu coached at Colorado in 1997 and 1998. Trojans receivers coach Ted Gilmore was a Buffaloes assistant in 2003 and 2004.