Although Colorado (2-4, 0-3 Pac-12) has never beaten the Trojans (4-2, 3-1) in eight tries, USC doesn't see its final home game before mid-November as a chance to start the second half of the season by padding its lead atop the Pac-12 South.
Instead, the Trojans will simply hope to avoid blowing a fourth-quarter lead for the third straight week. That late-game execution allowed Arizona State to steal a game on a Hail Mary, and Arizona nearly stole another before missing a last-gasp field goal last week.
''We have to learn from the last few weeks in general,'' Sarkisian said. ''The last seven, eight minutes of a game, how we attack it, we have to remain aggressive. The old-fashioned way of milking the clock, trying to eat up possessions and whatnot, I don't know if that's exactly where we need to be.''
There's another element to that plan for quarterback Cody Kessler, who has completed 69.1 percent of his passes with just one interception in a quietly outstanding season.
''We have to put more points on the board earlier, and when it gets to the fourth quarter, be more efficient, finish some of those drives,'' Kessler said. ''I want to finish games. I want to win. I want to keep our defense off the field and help them out, but it starts in the first three quarters.''
The Buffaloes were off last week after consecutive poor defensive performances in losses to California and Oregon State. Colorado hasn't shown many signs of being a contender in coach Mike MacIntyre's second season, but the Buffs' strong passing game in an offense averaging 476.7 yards per game suggests trouble for a USC defense that could start two untested freshmen at cornerback, depending on injury recoveries.
''Colorado is going to give us their best shot, just like every team that comes to the Coliseum does,'' USC linebacker Su'a Cravens said. ''We have to be ready for the punches they are about to throw.''
Here are some more things to watch when the Buffs run at the Coliseum:
PASSING FANCY: Colorado's Sefo Liufau is throwing to Nelson Spruce - the national leader with 62 receptions and 10 TD catches - and Shay Fields, who committed to USC last year before Sarkisian pulled the scholarship offer when he took over the program. USC could start freshmen Jonathan Lockett and Chris Hawkins at the corners.
BUCK PASSING: USC tailback Javorius Allen is having an outstanding season highlighted by his 205-yard, three-TD performance at Arizona last week. The Pac-12's leading rusher is the only FBS player with at least 750 yards on the ground and 250 yards receiving. Colorado has the conference's worst run defense, giving up 5.0 yards per carry.
BIG TASK: MacIntyre has undoubtedly improved the Colorado program in his two seasons, but is still looking for a signature win. The Buffs could stop several rough records at the Coliseum: Their 0-8 mark against USC, their 21 straight road losses to ranked teams and their 1-19 performance in Pac-12 play over the past few years.
SHINY LIDS: Tradition-rich USC and its zealous fans have largely resisted any attempts to change the school's uniform look during an era of wholesale upheaval in college football fashion. But even the Trojans finally have made a nod to the changing times. They'll debut shiny helmets with chrome facemasks against the Buffaloes. The colors won't change, but a school without an alternate uniform will pack a bit more pizazz for an afternoon.