Game at a Glance
• Matchup: Colorado Buffaloes (1-8, 1-5 Pac-12) at No. 8 USC Trojans (8-1, 6-1)
• Kickoff: 7:35 p.m. MT
• Where: Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
• Capacity: 77,500. Playing surface: Grass
• TV: FS1
• Radio: KOA (850 AM & 94.1 FM)
• Odds: USC by 34
• Series: USC leads 15-0
Some of Mike Sanford‘s earliest football memories were created on the sidelines of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
Colorado’s interim head coach grew up in a USC-loving home and as a youth he worked as a ball boy for the Trojans.
On Friday night, Sanford will attempt to beat the Trojans. It would be a monumental upset for a Colorado team that has struggled all season and comes in as a heavy underdog.
For Sanford, his coaches and all the players, the number one priority is to play their best possible football game and try to get a victory. However, there is no question that this isn’t just another game for Sanford and many of the Buffs who are from the Los Angeles area.
“I grew up on that sideline, I truly did, really starting in 1989 all the way until ’96,” Sanford said. “I have a lot of great memories in the Coliseum and then even at Stanford, I created some great memories coaching there at the Coliseum. Certainly the 2007 game was one that stands out to me for sure.”
From 1989-96, Sanford’s father, also Mike Sanford, was the USC receivers coach, working for Larry Smith and then John Robinson. The elder Sanford was also a backup quarterback for the Trojans, from 1973-76, helping them win a national title. Sanford’s mother and aunts are also USC alums.
“So, it’s a special place,” Sanford said. “I think I’ve already got 16 tickets out for my family members. The history runs really deep. I’m really excited for the opportunity just to bring our football team out there. It’s going to be a bit emotional for me, just because I literally was a ball boy on the visitor sideline. But, it’ll be the first time that I’ve really been coaching on the sideline in the Coliseum, so I’m excited for that opportunity.
“More importantly, I’m excited for our players that are from California. Then certainly players that are from out of state, there’s always this kind of anti-California sentiment that football is better in Florida or Texas or Georgia. It always carries a little bit extra weight going and playing in the Coliseum.”
In the 2007 game Sanford referenced, he was an offensive assistant at Stanford, which went into the Coliseum as a 41-point underdog. The Cardinal stunned the No. 2 Trojans, 24-23.
This CU team comes in as a 34-point underdog and will lean on numerous players from Southern California to pull off a miracle.
Quarterback JT Shrout grew up about 40 minutes from the Coliseum, in Santa Clarita.
“First time getting to play college ball back in the home state, so it’ll be nice to have my family out there and see them and play in front of them again,” said Shrout, whose mother is a graduate of UCLA, USC’s city rival. “So, that’ll be a good time.”
Overall, 30 players on CU’s roster are from California, including several from the Los Angeles area. That group includes guard Tommy Brown (Santa Ana), defensive end Terrance Lang (Pomona), cornerback Kaylin Moore (Westlake Village), linebacker Quinn Perry (Marina Del Rey) and defensive tackle Na’im Rodman (Lakewood). Also included is receiver Montana Lemonious-Craig (Inglewood), who was named an honorary captain for this game.
“He was really excited, almost kind of at a loss for words when we announced that at (Monday’s) team meeting,” Sanford said.
Playing in front of family and friends, and recalling memories of the past will certainly make Friday special for many of the Buffs. But winning the game is the main objective.
With USC leaving for the Big Ten in 2024, this is likely CU’s last trip to Coliseum for a while. And, the Buffs are running out of chances to snap their losing streak to the Trojans. CU is 0-15 all-time against them.
“Obviously, USC has been at the top of the class in this conference for a long time — at or near (the top),” Sanford said. “It’s gonna be a tremendous challenge, but the key for us is our preparation. … I think (practices) showed that we’re going to be ready for this challenge, physically, mentally, going into this game.
“I’m excited for us to be able to take our team and go and play against a top-10 team in the country. Everybody’s not gonna give us a chance and we’re gonna go in there with belief. That’s what this week in our preparation has been about.”