There isn't much Colorado can do to stop USC quarterback Matt Barkley and wide receiver Robert Woods.

Jon Embree admitted Tuesday that when the Buffs blitz they don't have the ability to cover man to man.

And when CU rushes four defensive linemen and doesn't get good pressure, Pac-12 quarterbacks pick the patchwork secondary apart.

"You're kind of stuck with some of the issues we have," Embree said.

And so the Buffs will have to try to fight USC's firepower with big plays of their own on Friday night at Folsom Field.

CU's best defense figures to be a more productive and explosive offense with the likely return of running back Rodney Stewart and wide receiver Paul Richardson to the lineup.

Stewart, officially listed as day to day on the injury report, hasn't played since suffering a knee injury on Oct. 15 at Washington. Before Speedy went down, CU was able to at least keep up with the Huskies during the first quarter of the track meet in Seattle before eating some dust in a 52-24 loss.

"I see Rodney running around pretty good," linebacker Derrick Webb said when asked how Stewart has looked in practice. "I've been wondering when we're going to get him back in there because he's looking pretty good to me."

Richardson has been out of action since sustaining a knee sprain in practice on Oct. 5. The dynamic sophomore, who went to Gardena (Calif.) Serra High School with USC star wideouts Woods and George Farmer, is also day to day.

"It has been really tough, especially when you don't know if you're going to be ready to play it's even tougher," Richardson said. "Even when I don't travel with the team, I watch them play and I'm still encouraging them through the TV screen. It's tough, but it's something that comes with the sport, sometimes you get injured."

Paul Richardson of CU takes off with his second long touchdown past D.J. Campbell of Cal.Cliff Grassmick / September 10, 2011
Paul Richardson of CU takes off with his second long touchdown past D.J. Campbell of Cal. Cliff Grassmick / September 10, 2011 ( CLIFF GRASSMICK )

CU averaged 24.4 points during the first five games of the season when Stewart and Richardson were both in the lineup. The Buffs have scored a total of 16 points in the last two games without the duo available.

"Both of those guys are playmakers, both of those guys force defenses to play us differently, so having both of those guys back, if we can get them back close to healthy, will make a big difference," Embree said. "It gives us the ability to have some big plays. It gives us the ability to take more shots down the field."