NCAAF Week 3: Texas @ #4 USC, Preview and Prediction

The Trojans and the Longhorns haven’t played against each other in over a decade. Who will win the rematch of the 2006 BCS National Championship?

The Trojans and the Longhorns haven’t played against each other in over a decade. Who will win the rematch of the 2006 BCS National Championship?

Week 2 Recap

USC Trojans – Talking about the same team in a game preview for two weeks in a row can be aggravating, but it was a much more complete Trojans team that beat up on Stanford in Week 2 than the sloppy game in Week 1. 

All eyes have been on the play of young quarterback Sam Darnold since long before the season even began, but it’s been the rest of the offense that’s really stood out so far this season. Running back Ronald Jones II has rumbled for five touchdowns through the first two games of the season, and wide receiver Deontay Burnett has emerged as Darnold’s clear-cut favorite target. 

In last week’s game against the Stanford Cardinal, the Trojans controlled the game and proceeded to put it away with a vengeance in the fourth quarter – something that well-coached, veteran teams do. To be fair, the defense was gouged on the ground by Stanford star Bryce Love and the Cardinal passing game isn’t exactly the strength of the team, so it will be interesting to see USC handle a more potent offense. 

Texas Longhorns – Would the real Texas Longhorns please stand up? After losing a stunner to Maryland in Week 1 by a score of 51-41, the team turned around and hammered a hapless San Jose State team 56-0. 

Seriously, the Longhorns couldn’t have asked for a better game going into the second week. The Spartans aren’t exactly a powerhouse foe, but they usually come into the year with a good offense and an average defense. Even with the regular starting quarterback for Texas, Shane Buechele, out with a shoulder injury, the team put up 56 points. Freshman Sam Ehlinger, in his first ever start, rode a killer run game and fairly safe, smart passes to victory.

The Longhorns had six rushing touchdowns against San Jose State that came from four different players. If they can continue to lean on that ground game led by the 250lb Chris Warren III, Texas might be able to trade body blows with the Trojans and sneak away with a win.

Keys to the Game

Longhorn stampede: In the loss to Maryland, Texas had under 100 rushing yards. In their crushing victory over San Jose State, they had 406. The Longhorns are a team ready to ground and pound the ball like nobody’s business, with Warren III and the smaller, speedier complements in Toneil Carter and Kyle Porter providing the offense with a strong stable. The Trojans have a great front seven led in the first couple of weeks by linebackers Cameron Smith, Porter Gustin and Uchenna Nwosu. This could be what turns the game.

Big Malik Jefferson: The six-foot-three, 240-pound linebacker is a cornerstone of the Longhorns defense. He’s played well in the first couple of games, both in the win and the loss, but what’s been missing is that take-charge, momentum-shifting action. He has the talent to really impact a game, and he will have to make a splash to shake up the USC offense. 

How about Holton Hill?: The defensive back for the Longhorns has been one of the brightest spots of this young season for the team. In two games, the junior has two interceptions and two touchdowns – not bad for a guy who played rarely and recorded no picks last season. He’s had three total career interceptions, all of them returned for points. Hill is establishing himself as a ballhawk – if he can keep up his strong play in the backfield, he could give Darnold fits.

Matchup to Watch

Texas quarterback vs USC secondary

At the time of writing this article, the Longhorns still haven’t announced whether Shane Buechele will start this rematch of the 2006 Rose Bowl, or if Ehlinger will once again have to sub in for the injured starter. The USC defense is ranked 28th in passing defense, but the Longhorns theoretically have the best aerial attack of any team they’ve faced so far. Ehlinger adds a dimension with his running ability, but Buechele was named starter for a reason. Whoever starts, they’ll have to step up to keep pace with USC.

Prediction – Texas 24, USC 34

The Longhorns should be able to make a game of this – they have enough weapons on the offensive side of the ball to do some damage. But after watching their Jekyll and Hyde act over the first two games, the consistency just isn’t there yet. With question marks floating around the starting quarterback for the Longhorns and Darnold’s play improving for USC, the game could get rough. If Texas can go blow-for-blow with the Trojans, they have a chance. 

What predictions do you have for this game? Discuss in the comments below!

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Matthew Olson

Journalist and self-proclaimed football expert — whether it be NCAA, NFL or CFL. Writes NCAA articles and tries to watch the draft top to bottom every year.