Colorado has already played two games without star cornerback Isaiah Oliver.
Head coach Mike MacIntyre said he may not know until Saturday if the Buffaloes will go a third game without the junior.
“He practiced (Wednesday) a little bit more, so we’ll see at game time,” MacIntyre said.
CU (5-5, 2-5 Pac-12) will take on No. 15 Southern California (8-2, 6-1) on Saturday at Folsom Field. Of course, MacIntyre isn’t likely to state publicly if Oliver will play or not against the Trojans, but they’d certainly be better with him.
Oliver injured his leg during the first half of an Oct. 21 game at Washington State, and has missed the last two and a half games. The Buffs brought him on the trip to Arizona State last week in hopes he would play, but he was unable to go.
“It’s been tough for him, tough for us, tough for everybody,” MacIntyre said. “He’s a difference maker for sure.”
Without Oliver, the Buffs have relied on Dante Wigley and Trey Udoffia, who have had mixed results.
“They’ve have no choice (but to mature); just got thrown in the bowl of water and you better swim,” MacIntyre said. “It’s definitely helped them compete and keep going.”
Facing the Trojans D
USC’s offense gets a lot of attention because of standout quarterback Sam Darnold and running back Ronald Jones II. The Trojans’ defense isn’t too bad, either.
“Just like their offense, they’re extremely athletic,” MacIntyre said. “They have guys that can make plays all over the place.”
Rasheem Green (7 sacks) and Christian Rector (6 ½ ) lead a physical pass rush, as the Trojans top the Pac-12 with 34 sacks. Cameron Smith is one of the best linebackers in the Pac-12 and Jack Jones is second in the conference with four interceptions.
“They’re good, they’re athletic, they’re talented; they’re a good defense,” CU quarterback Steven Montez said. “It’ll be a good challenge for us this week.”
USC plays a lot of man-to-man coverage, which CU hopes it can beat with its talented receivers.
“It’s opportunities for us go out and show how good we are and for us to go compete against good corners and safeties and have our receivers beat them 1-on-1 and get open and then make the throws,” Montez said. “It’s definitely going to be a good week for us to show what we have on offense.”
Milestones for Gamboa
Junior linebacker Rick Gamboa had a career-high 17 tackles in the loss to Arizona State, and has set a new single-season career high with 103 stops.
Gamboa’s previous single-game high was 14 tackles against Arizona last month.
A starter since early in his redshirt freshman year, Gamboa led the Buffs with 96 tackles in 2015 and finished third on the team with 79 in 2016.
Gamboa is just the third Buff in the last nine seasons to reach 100 tackles, joining Kenneth Olugbode (130 in 2016) and Addison Gillam (119 in 2013). He’s about to have some company, though, as Drew Lewis enters this week with 99 tackles on the season.
CU hasn’t had two players with 100 tackles in the same season since 2006, when Jordon Dizon and Thaddaeus Washington both reached that milestone.
CU guard/center Tim Lynott Jr., who tore his Achilles’ tendon in Saturday’s 41-30 loss at Arizona State, had successful surgery on Wednesday. He will miss the remainder of the season and sit out of spring ball, but should be back next summer. … Cornerback Kevin George, who is redshirting after transferring from Georgia Military Academy, has added 17 pounds of muscle since his arrival in August. “He’s hit the weight room four days a week hard and really improved his body,” MacIntyre said. “He needed to make some gains in the strength area and he’s doing that.” … Oliver still leads the Pac-12 with 1.5 passes defended per game. … Jones leads the Pac-12 with 13 rushing touchdowns. … As an unranked team, CU has lost 25 in a row to ranked opponents, dating back to a 34-30 win against No. 17 Kansas in 2009.