Buffaloes at a glance
Record: 4-1, 2-0 Pac-12
Passing — Sefo Liufau, Sr.: 54-for-76, 768 yards, 6 TD, 0 INT; Steven Montez, Fr.: 48-for-76, 743 yards, 8 TD, 2 INT
Rushing — Phillip Lindsay, Jr.: 70 carries, 338 yards, 6 TD
Receiving — Devin Ross, Jr.: 26 catches, 364 yards, 5 TD
Tackles — Kenneth Olugbode, Sr.: 49 tackles (35 solo)
3 questions facing CU
1. Who will start at quarterback?
For the third week in a row, this is the main question about the Buffs. With Sefo Liufau recovering from a sprained right ankle, Steven Montez started the last two games and was exceptional. Liufau appears to be healthy — or close to it — now, though. Liufau brings more experience and leadership, while Montez is a dynamic play-maker. Either way, both are capable of giving USC fits.
2. Are the Buffs ready to handle the spotlight?
CU is ranked among the Top 25 for the first time in 11 years, and with that comes a level of expectation, and a target on the Buffaloes' backs. Nationally ranked teams don't sneak up on anybody, so the Buffs have to be ready to take USC's best shot and prove they belong among the Top 25.
3. How will the defense deal with USC's weapons?
Colorado has been great on defense for much of the season, but USC might have more offensive weapons than anybody the Buffs have seen to this point. Sam Darnold is playing well at quarterback, Justin Davis and Ronald Jones II are explosive running backs, receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster is one of the best in the country, and tight end Taylor McNamara can be a big challenge. CU has played well all season and needs to again.
Bottom line: This is one of the toughest tests CU will face all season, but the Buffs have proven they can play with anybody. Win this game and the Buffs will further strengthen their hold on the top spot in the Pac-12 South and bury the Trojans in the standings.
Trojans at a glance
Record: 2-3, 1-2 Pac-12
Passing — Sam Darnold, Fr.: 55-for-81, 741 yards, 5 TD, 1 INT
Rushing — Justin Davis, Sr.: 61 carries, 384 yards, 2 TD
Receiving — JuJu Smith-Schuster, Jr.: 26 catches, 320 yard, 5 TD
Tackles — Cameron Smith, So.: 45 tackles (28 solo)
3 questions facing USC
1. Do the Trojans have their swagger back?
After a disappointing 1-3 start, USC crushed previously unbeaten Arizona State, 41-20, last week, and led 41-6 after three quarters. The defense shut down ASU's high-powered offense. The offense was smooth under the direction of Darnold. That win could give the Trojans the confidence they need going forward.
2. Can the Trojans win the game in the trenches?
USC has often had strong play from its offensive and defensive lines, but they've been inconsistent up front this season. They rank ninth in the Pac-12 in rushing and eighth in run defense. In the Trojans' losses, they struggled to stop the run, allowing 242 yards to Alabama, 302 to Stanford and 186 to Utah. Beating the Buffs in the trenches will be a major key for the Trojans.
3. How will USC handle CU's tempo?
So far this season, Colorado has stunned teams with its fast pace on offense. Even Michigan, which has one of the top defenses in the country, had trouble slowing down the Buffs. USC did slow down Arizona State's up-tempo attack last week. CU's offense is a bit different, though, and the Buffs feature more veterans than ASU. USC can't let the Buffs get on a roll offensively.
Bottom line: After a 1-3 start to the season, the Trojans still have an opportunity to go on a run and make this is a great season. They certainly aren't out of the running for the Pac-12 South title, but need to find a way to knock off the Buffs if they want to stay in contention.
Brian Howell: firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.