Brian Howell (BuffZone.com) — Every game on the schedule is big, and the Colorado football team has done a good job of treating each game the same way.
There’s no question, however, that when the No. 19-ranked Buffaloes visit Southern California on Saturday, there’s a lot more at stake than in most games.
CU (5-0, 2-0 Pac-12) heads to the Los Angeles Coliseum with a chance to seize control of the Pac-12 South division and take a significant lead over the defending champion Trojans (3-2, 2-1).
“We know we’re going to have to win a ton of Pac-12 games to win the conference, to win the Pac-12 South,” CU head coach Mike MacIntyre said. “Also (USC) is a Pac-12 South team, so that makes it a little bit bigger. They’re all big … but if you can beat a Pac-12 South opponent, that puts them a notch behind you. It’s a big game for us.”
USC was the preseason favorite to win its second consecutive South title, but a CU win would give the Buffs a two-game lead on the Trojans, and the head-to-head tie-breaker. That’s essentially a three-game advantage over CU’s top competitor for the division.
With a loss, the Buffs fall into a tie with the Trojans, but would lose the head-to-head tie-breaker. CU would need some help to win the division.
Certainly CU will have a lot of work to do either way, but a victory Saturday would be a major step toward the goal to win the South.
Lynott, OL come through
CU’s offensive line has received a lot of praise for its performance in Saturday’s 28-21 win against Arizona State.
While several of the linemen played well, junior Tim Lynott took a big step forward. A week earlier against UCLA, he lost his starting job and barely played. Against ASU, he came off the bench and was back at his usual spot at right guard late in the game as the Buffs ran the ball to chew up the clock.
“He did a great job,” CU co-offensive coordinator/line coach Klayton Adams said. “He really focused on trying to make himself better, trying to be better fundamentally, trying to break some bad habits. He went in and played well.”
Adams said he was impressed with how Lynott – who had started each of his 27 career games before two weeks ago – handled the situation.
“Regardless, if you know there’s a good player behind you that can take your job, it heightens the urgency in practice, it heightens the urgency of competition, it makes you watch a little extra film,” Adams said. “Competition is so important in this sport. If you’ve got competition, you’ve got a chance to continue to grow.
“(What Lynott did), it’s leadership. I think it speaks the unselfishness of the entire team . Winning is the ultimate goal.”
CU once again made in-game substitutions up front. William Sherman, Brett Tonz, Colby Pursell, Aaron Haigler and Josh Kaiser started, but Lynott and Frank Fillip both played, as well.
Will that continue, or will the Buffs eventually settle on a group of five?
“The answer to that question is: When there’s five guys that are head and shoulders better than the rest of them we’ll be in a situation where we can do that,” Adams said. “You want to have continuity, you want guys that play next to each other know what to expect. I think you can develop that with six or seven guys.”
During the win against ASU, the Buffs lost linebacker Nate Landman to a targeting ejection. MacIntyre can’t comment on whether he agreed with the call or not because he could risk getting fined. He did, however, say the Buffs do their best to try to prevent those penalties.
“We tell our kids to hit in a strike zone and that’s what we work on all the time,” he said. “The referees are doing the best job they can to make sure we protect the kids.”
MacIntyre said they will send that play into the Pac-12 and get clarification “so we can know how to teach them and coach them.”
He added, “Right now I think we did everything exactly the right way (on Landman’s hit), but the referees are doing a great job of making sure they protect our kids. Our game is a lot safer and a lot better because of it.”
Landman will be able to return for the start of Saturday’s game at USC.