Whether or not USC's Marc Tyler is able to suit up Friday against Colorado with his dislocated shoulder, Curtis McNeal will make the first start of his college career at running back against the Buffaloes, coach Lane Kiffin announced Wednesday.
The decision comes on the heels of McNeal's career-high 145-yard performance against Stanford on Saturday, in which he scored two touchdowns but fumbled the ball on the goal line in the third overtime to give the Cardinal the ball and the victory. Tyler started the game but got hurt on the first play from scrimmage and did not return.
"Curtis will start regardless," Kiffin said Wednesday. "But I do hope that Marc plays. As of right now, he's scheduled to make the trip, and we'll continue to test him, starting with tomorrow morning."
McNeal, a redshirt junior, has been a backup since arriving on campus in the summer of 2008. The 24 carries he received against Notre Dame last month were the most he'd had in a game since his days at Venice High, and he followed it up with 20 more rushes against Stanford.
He is averaging 6.5 yards per carry. If he gets at least 18 carries per game for the Trojans' last four contests and keeps up that average, he'll surpass the 1,000-yard barrier and accumulate the highest number of rushing yards in a season at USC since 2005.
Joe McKnight is the only USC back to get past 1,000 yards since Reggie Bush and LenDale White's time on campus, and he totaled just 1,014 yards.
Pedro Moura covers USC for ESPNLosAngeles.com.