Pac-12 After Dark special: Colorado vs. USC worth staying up late for

BOULDER, CO - OCTOBER 06: Quarterback Steven Montez #12 of the Colorado Buffaloes throws in the first quarter against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Folsom Field on October 6, 2018 in Boulder, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
BOULDER, CO - OCTOBER 06: Quarterback Steven Montez #12 of the Colorado Buffaloes throws in the first quarter against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Folsom Field on October 6, 2018 in Boulder, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images) /

USC vs. Colorado is this week’s edition of Pac-12 After Dark and it should provide plenty of excitement as the matchup has more than just a few intriguing storylines.

Pac-12 After Dark. It’s a cultural phenomenon within the world of college football. While some out on the west coast would argue that it doesn’t provide enough national exposure and that it works against drawing big enough crowds, I would argue that it provides college football fanatics with something that they can enjoy when they can’t fall asleep due to a fear of missing a moment of college football.

Think about it this way: what are you honestly supposed to do when you’ve been binging college football all day and can’t sleep? Sure, the responsible members of society out there are going to argue in favor of attempting to sleep or reading a book, doing something enlightening like that.

But, let’s be honest with ourselves, the correct answer would be to avoid sleep for a little while longer and watch more college football. The college football season is relatively short in the grand scheme of things, so why not enjoy every second of college football that we can squeeze out of a day?

I’m pretty sure Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott would agree with me.

Be mildly irresponsible with your sleep schedule! Enjoy college football at every possible time that it’s on! On that note, there’s an unexpectedly great game coming up this weekend.

That’s because Colorado and USC have swapped roles a bit this year.

The Colorado Buffaloes are traveling down to face the USC Trojans in a game that has reversed roles from what one would have expected coming into the season. Colorado is undefeated. They’re 5-0 so far this season and the Buffs have literally matched their win total from a season ago. That’s impressive! They’re doing a great job of overachieving!

Coming into the year, SB Nation’s Bill Connelly did some of his math magic and his S&P+ system predicted that the Buffs would only win 4 games this season. Spoiler alert: they’ve already surpassed that predicted total!

That’s not a knock on Bill or the S&P+, it’s just a way of indicating how weird this year has been and this particular matchup can be.

The other great indicator of how weird, and great, this game can be is when you take a look at what was expected of USC and, well, how they’re probably not going to meet those expectations. Given that USC is a traditional powerhouse, has recruited well in recent years, and was really good the past two seasons, it was fair to expect that this team would be one of the best. Well, Bill Connelly’s S&P+ predicted they’d go 8-4 and would be the 15th best team in the country.

And right now, USC is 3-2 on the year. The Trojans are unranked and are fresh off of a game where they struggled against the 3-3 Arizona Wildcats. To say that is underachieving some already relatively low expectations would be fair, right?

Now, it is also fair to say that not all of Colorado’s wins have been all that impressive and USC’s losses really aren’t all that bad. Take a look at the Colorado-Nebraska game, for example. The Buffs barely escaped the Lincoln, Nebraska as they needed a miraculous comeback to beat the currently winless Cornhuskers. The Trojans have only lost to Texas, who is certifiably back and in the top 10, and then Stanford, who is 4-2 and has been ranked for most of the year.

USC beat a thrilling Washington State team a couple of weeks ago and the Cougs are 5-1 this year!

These two teams could very well determine who will win the Pac-12 South.

If you needed another reason to watch this game, then you should know that this game will go a long way toward determining who wins the Pac-12 South. As it just so happens, these two teams are currently one and two in their division. At the moment, Colorado has a slight lead over USC, but the Trojans has played one more conference game than the Buffs so far.

And honestly, which other team from the Pac-12 South could honestly claim this division?

Go ahead and forget about Chip Kelly and UCLA, they haven’t won a game yet this year. Herm Edwards and Arizona State have been a bit surprising so far this season, but the Sun Devils have already lost to Colorado and have road games against USC, Oregon, and Arizona on the horizon. Plus, they’ll get to play Stanford from the Pac-12 North. Toss the idea of these guys claiming it out the window too.

Utah just beat Stanford and could theoretically do it, right? If you could somehow see them overcoming a 1-2 conference record and surviving a road trip to Colorado while also beating out USC and Oregon at home, then maybe. But that’s just not likely.

And then there’s Arizona, who actually has a 2-1 record in conference play, just like USC. The Wildcats did challenge the Trojans a bit and could be improving going forward. But they get back-to-back games against Oregon and Colorado to end October and start November. Plus there’s the fact that they already lost to USC.

There’s some potentially serious implications in this wacky, late night game.

The Colorado Buffs have been a blast to watch through the first half of the college football season. They’ve overcome a lot of adversity and have surpassed every conceivable expectation about this team that would’ve been realistic. This team is a perennial underdog and it has a live buffalo that stampedes onto the field at home games. Despite how serious that sounds, it’s incredibly fun to watch. Just, you know, don’t get gored or run over. That’s not fun.

Meanwhile, USC is looking to find a way to impose their will upon the college football world again. This is a team that has built a tradition upon having a guy dressed up as a Trojan soldier walk around and stab grass. Despite how silly that sounds, they’re a serious program that is known for steamrolling opponents.

Now, these two teams are meeting on Saturday night. This game will likely shape what happens in the Pac-12 South, and could have a lasting impact down the road, depending on whether or now Colorado wins here and how long they can stay undefeated.

Go ahead and stay up on Saturday. Make sure you watch this game that happens so late for most college football fans. This game is probably going to go way past your bedtime if you live in either the Central or Eastern time zones and are even remotely responsible, but it’ll be worth it. There’ll probably be all sorts of weirdness that happens in this game, but there’ll be some serious impacts that will be felt across the country.