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QBs Caleb Williams and Shedeur Sanders share center stage when No. 8 USC travels to Colorado

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BOULDER, Colo. (AP) — Southern California quarterback Caleb Williams and his Colorado counterpart Shedeur Sanders have quite a bit in common.

Both appear in commercials. Both flash impressive improv skills on the field. And both have resurrected programs after following their head coach to a new school.

On Saturday, they will share center stage at sold-out Folsom Field, with Williams leading No. 8 Southern California (4-0, 2-0 Pac-12) against a resurgent Colorado team (3-1, 0-1) led by Sanders and his famous father.

“Great challenge ahead of us,” said Colorado coach Deion Sanders, whose team is coming off a 42-6 loss at No. 9 Oregon last weekend. “First and foremost, I have the utmost respect and love and appreciation for their head coach.”

Sanders’ ability to rapidly turn things around in Boulder is straight out of the Lincoln Riley playbook. The USC coach relied on the transfer portal to help build the Trojans when he took over before last season. There was no bigger addition for Riley than Williams, who followed him from Oklahoma.

Sanders assembled his team by turning over the Colorado roster and bringing in nearly 60 newcomer transfers. And there was no bigger addition for him than Shedeur Sanders, who followed dad from Jackson State.

They are well on their way to turning around a Colorado program that had just one winning season — two if you throw in the abbreviated COVID-19 year — since joining the Pac-12 in 2011.

“He’s done a great job with the roster,” said Riley, whose program is 16-0 all-time against the Buffaloes. “He seems to be very genuine in his approach.”

The combination of Riley and Williams certainly restored the luster to the Trojans, who are 15-3 over the last two seasons. The Trojans remain among the favorites in the national title chase this season.

Williams, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, is picking up right where he left off, too, throwing for 1,200 yards and 15 touchdowns with no interceptions this season. He's certainly caught the attention of Deion Sanders.

“The kid is a playmaker,” Sanders said. “He’s the epitome of class and confidence in what he brings to the table. He makes plays. He makes that team go. He’s a handful.”

Ditto for Shedeur Sanders, who's thrown for 1,410 yards and 11 touchdowns with one pick despite being under constant duress. He's been sacked 22 times this season.

The two were heralded players as high schoolers, wooed by some of the top programs in the country. Williams was a five-star prospect and a top-10 overall recruit, according to the 247Sports composite index; Sanders, a four-star recruit and among the top 26 QBs overall, was part of a head-turning recruiting effort by Deion Sanders at Jackson State.

The two are also among the top three college football players in the name, image and likeness rankings from On3; Sanders is No. 1 with a valuation of $4.5 million.

About their commercials: Williams is featured in the “ Heisman House ” ads through Nissan, while Sanders has a cameo in a KFC spot with his dad promoting hot and spicy wings.

On paper, this game doesn't figure to be too spicy. The Trojans are a 21 1/2-point favorite, according to FanDuel Sportsbook, and Colorado will be without injured two-way star Travis Hunter. The Buffaloes may also be missing safety Shilo Sanders, Shedeur's older brother, who made a hospital visit to get checked out following the Oregon game.

But the Buffaloes have been in this spot before — they were a three-touchdown underdog at TCU in the opener, before pulling out a 45-42 win.

“We’re not on a seesaw,” Deion Sanders said. “We rock steady.”

RICE RETURN

The Buffaloes will see a familiar face in Trojans receiver Brenden Rice. He started his career at Colorado before transferring to Southern Cal before the 2022 season. Rice also is the son of Hall of Fame receiver Jerry Rice, who was teammates with Deion Sanders in San Francisco when the 49ers won the Super Bowl following the 1994 season.

“I’m happy for Jerry that his son is doing his thing,” Deion Sanders said.

TOP-10 SKID

Colorado is looking to end a 19-game skid against teams ranked in the AP top 10, according to Pac-12 research. The Buffaloes last win against such an opponent was Sept. 29, 2007, when they beat No. 3 Oklahoma 27-24 in Boulder.

THE BIG SHOW

FOX’s “Big Noon Kickoff” arrives in town for the third time this season. Also making an appearance will be the FS1 show, “Undisputed." Boulder remains a popular place for sports, music and Hollywood celebrities to congregate on game day ( rapper Lil Wayne back for another impromptu on-field concert Saturday? Stay tuned).

“It’s fun to watch and see,” Colorado receiver Javon Antonio said of the celebrity sightings.

OFFENSIVE SHOW

Southern Cal has the No. 1 scoring offense, averaging 55 points a game. They’re also No. 3 in total offense (569.2 yards) and passing offense (377.2).

EARLY SHOW

Riley is selling the Trojans on the benefits of an early wake-up call (kickoff time is 9 a.m. Pacific): “It’ll be fun to just wake up, eat, do a quick meeting and go play."

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Associated Press freelancer Dan Greenspan in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

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AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll