In starting 4-1, the Colorado football team has found a fair amount of success in the red zone, both on offense and defense.
At 2-3, Southern Cal has struggled a bit in the red zone.
During his post-practice media session on Thursday, USC head coach Clay Helton said the red zone will be a key to Saturday’s game at the Los Angeles Coliseum.
“I think it’s something that’s going to be extremely important when you’re dealing with a team that scores 43 points a game,” Helton said of the Buffs, who rank third in the Pac-12 with 43.2 points per game. “We have to be able to bend but not break, create turnovers in the red zone, hold offenses to field goals in the red zone. Offensively when we get down there we have to make the most of our opportunities. Field goals are not good enough against a team that puts up this many points.”
CU has scored on 92.3 percent of its trips to the red zone (24 of 26), ranking 25th nationally, while USC’s defense has allowed scores 93.8 percent of the time (15 of 16), ranking 111th.
Helton said starting right tackle Zach Banner, a 6-foot-9, 360-pound senior, is doubtful to play because of an ankle injury.
Backup defensive end Jabari Ruffin (concussion) and backup defensive back Ykili Ross (shoulder) are also doubtful. Starting tight end Taylor McNamara (back) might miss the game, too. Helton said McNamara could be used in “emergency situations.”
• Former CU standout Ronnie Bradford is in his first year as the secondary coach at USC. Bradford played four seasons at CU (1989-92) and blocked a Notre Dame extra point in CU’s 10-9 win over the Irish in the 1991 Orange Bowl, a win that gave CU its only national title.
• History is certainly on USC’s side this week. Colorado is 0-10 all-time against the Trojans, and the Buffs have historically struggled in games played in California, going 2-19-1 all-time. CU has lost nine straight games in California since a 31-17 win against UCLA in 2002.
• CU linebacker Kenneth Olugbode has 10-plus tackles in three straight games (14 against Michigan, 13 against Oregon, 12 against Oregon State). The last Buff to do that in four straight was Anthony Perkins in 2011.
• CU has more first-quarter points (85) than any team in the country, and only seventh-ranked Louisville has more first-quarter yards than the Buffs (1,066 for Louisville, 976 for CU). It’s already the most first-quarter points CU has had for a season since 2003 (86 points).
Brian Howell: firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.