Colorado-Southern Cal Preview

The Associated Press

Southern California rebounded from last month's loss to Stanford with three-straight Pac-12 victories, though without some of the spectacular numbers the Trojans have been accustomed to putting up in recent years.

The Trojans' stats could get a big boost Saturday.

After playing four of its first six games away from home, No. 11 USC returns to Los Angeles to face struggling Colorado.

The Trojans' offense ranks seventh in the Pac-12 in yards per game (392.8) and sixth in points (25.8) during conference play.

Coach Lane Kiffin is OK with that as long as his team continues to win, which it did for a third straight time by beating Washington 24-14 in Seattle last Saturday.

"I continue to remind myself there is one goal and that is to win the game. Are the numbers what we're used to? No. But we won,'' Kiffin said. "Remember two times ago we went on the road and we weren't sitting here with a win.

"... We've said it all along, this isn't about anybody's numbers or Heisman or any of that. This is about winning games."

Though he was pegged as a preseason favorite for the Heisman Trophy, quarterback Matt Barkley's numbers haven't quite matched the standard he set in 2011, when he averaged 294.0 yards through the air and threw 39 touchdowns passes - third in the nation - with just seven interceptions.

Barkley has averaged nearly 50 fewer yards passing through six games, and he's been sacked eight times - equaling the number of times he went down all of last season. The senior finished 10 for 20 for 167 yards against the Huskies, his lowest yardage total since 2010.

Though Barkley has yet to get on a sustained roll, USC (5-1, 3-1) is starting to establish a running game after being limited to 26 yards in its Sept. 15 loss at Stanford. The Trojans have averaged 209.7 yards in their last three wins, with Penn State transfer Silas Redd going for 155 yards and a TD in Seattle.

USC ran for 200-plus yards three times in all of 2011.

"Obviously I want to pass the ball, but I'm happy with the win,'' said Barkley, whose 96 career touchdown passes are three shy of Matt Leinart's Pac-12 record. "It wasn't a glamorous win but if we're scoring and winning then I'm happy with that."

Instead, Kiffin has relied on a defense that has seemingly become stingier with each game.

After giving up 872 total yards in back-to-back weeks against Syracuse and Stanford, USC has held its last three opponents to an average of 284.3 yards. Against Washington, the unit forced four turnovers to bail out an offense that was shut out after halftime.

The Trojans, who also scored on a blocked punt returned 21 yards for a touchdown by Anthony Brown, have created 16 turnovers already after forcing only 17 last season.

"It's just a more experienced defense than a couple years ago," said senior safety Jawanza Starling, who forced and recovered a fumble against the Huskies. "We've been in the system for a while. A lot of the guys know what they're supposed to do and are just out there having fun, playing football.''

Barkley, Redd and the rest of the offense could have plenty of fun against a Buffaloes defense that limps into Los Angeles.

Colorado (1-5, 1-2) is allowing a conference-worst 494.2 yards per game this season - 116th in the nation - and those issues didn't show any signs of disappearing in a 51-17 home loss to Arizona State on Oct. 11. The Buffaloes yielded 281 yards on the ground, 332 through the air and were outscored 31-0 in the final 30 minutes after trailing by three at halftime.

To make matters worse, linebacker Brady Daigh left with a neck injury, adding to a list of banged-up defensive starters.

"Just look at the first half. In the second half we blew it," safety Terrel Smith said. "But we can play with every team we play. Just a lot of mistakes shows us at 1-5."

The Buffaloes didn't turn it over when USC visited Boulder last season, but Barkley was nearly perfect when the Trojans had the ball. He tied a career high with six TD passes in USC's 42-17 win, throwing two apiece to Robert Woods and Marqise Lee.

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