TEXAS LONGHORNS (1-1)
at USC TROJANS (2-0)
L.A. Memorial Stadium – Los Angeles, CA
Kickoff: Saturday, 8:30 p.m. ET
Line: USC -15.5, Total: 67.0
#4 USC will be hoping to stay perfect with a home win over a hungry Texas team on Saturday.
Texas and USC have not faced one another since the 2006 Rose Bowl. With the national championship on the line in that one, Vince Young’s Longhorns beat the Trojans 41-38 in what was one of the best college football games ever. That USC team boasted a number of legends, as both Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush were on the field in that game. The Trojans were favored by seven in that contest, and they’ll enter this one as an even bigger favorite. Texas has had a slow start to the season, as the team was upset at home as a 19-point favorite against Maryland in the first week of the year. Fortunately, the Longhorns bounced back with a 56-0 victory as 24.5-point home favorites against San Jose State last week. Still, the team was definitely thinking it would be 2-0 at this point in the year and has to be disappointed about its record. The Trojans, meanwhile, are coming off of a dominating 42-24 home victory over Stanford. USC opened that game as a 3.5-point favorite and now appears to be the team to beat in the Pac-12. One trend that stands out when looking at this game is the fact that the Trojans are 6-0 ATS as a favorite of 10.5 to 21 points over the past two seasons. They’re also facing a Longhorns team that is 0-6 ATS after outgaining opponents by 125 or more total yards in their previous game over the past three seasons.
The Longhorns badly needed a victory last week and they actually ended up dominating their opponent in that one. Texas rushed for a ridiculous 406 yards in that win over San Jose State and will now look to run the ball right at USC. That means that the Trojans are going to do everything they can to put the ball in RB Chris Warren’s (197 yards, 2 TD) hands. Warren rushed for 166 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries last week. That was after receiving only six carries in the season opener, so clearly Texas realized it needed to be better on the ground. That is especially the case right now, as the Longhorns are dealing with a poor situation at quarterback. QB Shane Buechele (375 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT) is the guy that head coach Tom Herman wants under center, but Buechele is dealing with a bad throwing shoulder right now. Freshman Sam Ehlinger (222 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT) started in his place last week, and the youngster was fine in that game. He didn’t do much, but he also didn’t make mistakes. He’ll need to be smart with the football once again if he starts against the Trojans here. If Buechele plays then the gameplan will change a bit, though. The Longhorns would throw the ball a lot more, as Herman trusts Buechele to air it out deep. On defense, the goal for this Texas team will be to put pressure on Sam Darnold. USC has a ton of weapons, but the Longhorns can keep this thing close if they force Darnold to make some tough throws.
After really struggling against Western Michigan in the first week of the year, QB Sam Darnold (605 yards, 4 TD, 4 INT) was absolutely brilliant against Stanford. Darnold was 21-for-26 for 316 yards, four touchdowns, and two picks in that game. The two interceptions is obviously not a trend that head coach Clay Helton will want to see continue, but Darnold carved the Cardinal up in that one. That is a very solid Stanford defense, so he should have no trouble picking apart Texas on Saturday. When Darnold does go to the air, keep an eye on WR Deontay Burnett (16 rec, 263 yards, 2 TD). Burnett is Darnold’s favorite target in the passing game, and he has now averaged 131.5 YPG over the season’s first two contests. It’s hard to imagine him not having a big game here. The same goes for RB Ronald Jones (275 yards, 5 TD), who just might be the most underrated player in the country. Jones is easily one of the best running backs in college football, and he has already made two defenses look awful thus far. Expect him to do more of the same against the Longhorns. Defensively, if the Trojans can shut down the run then this should be a blowout.