The Longhorns (1-1, 0-0) and Spartans (2-0, 1-1) will meet for just the sixth time in history on Saturday at the Los Angeles Coliseum in a prime-time matchup scheduled for 7:30 PM CST. USC holds an all-time record of 4-1 against Texas, which last upset the favored Trojans in the 2005 BCS Championship under former head coach Mack Brown.
USC, ranked 4th in both the Associated Press and Coaches Top-25 Polls, enters the contest as more than a two touchdown favorite.
As a head coach, Tom Herman has a perfect 6-0 record against ranked opponents and a 3-0 record against Top-10 opponents.
Does Texas have what it takes to leave the Coliseum with an upset win?
The HornSports staff give their predictions on the outcome of tonight’s game.
The last time the Longhorns played at the Coliseum, something magical happened. Vince Young defied all odds and led his team to their first national championship in 35 years.
That was over a decade ago. Since then, the Longhorns have been on a downhill slide. The mojo of Texas continued throughout the Colt McCoy era, but after his devastating injury in the 2009 National Championship, something changed within the Texas program. Since that game, the Longhorns have a 47-45 record. The Mack Brown era ended on a sour note and a new coach failed to bring back the “pride and winning tradition” of Texas football.
Now, another coach is trying to instill a winning mentality that seems to have been lost for decades. Tom Herman has had monumental success in his coaching career. But in his debut with the Longhorns, he got a taste of what it was like to be the head man in charge of a Power 5 program. That will all go out the window if Herman can manage to defeat the Trojans on Saturday.
As a head coach, Herman has never lost to an AP top 25 opponent or as an underdog. That may change on Saturday. Not because Herman isn’t capable of out-coaching a tough opponent, but because his team is nowhere near the caliber of a veteran squad making a case for the CFP.
Herman does not have the luxury of coaching the Heisman frontrunner at quarterback or an All-American at running back. And with the way Todd Orlando’s defense has played this season, that could spell trouble. Further, the Texas offense has proven to be inconsistent. Even though the USC run defense is subpar, Texas is working with either an injured quarterback or true freshman behind center. Building a winning culture takes time. Right now USC has that, and Texas is still trying to find its way back to the glory days. The better team will win on Saturday.
Score Prediction: USC 45, Texas 21
The question I have wondered all week is what Texas defense is going to show up in Los Angeles on Saturday? The one that gave up 51 points at home to Maryland or the one that dominated San Jose State? The coverage bust, biting on pump fakes and leaving men wide open is not going to fly against USC. Sam Darnold is the real deal and Ronald Jones is very good. If Texas holds the Trojans under 30 points, I think they have a chance to win, but it’s just hard to envision that happening.
The Texas offense is going to go as far as the quarterback play will take them in a game of this magnitude. Whether its Shane Buechele or Sam Ehlinger, both quarterbacks must take care of the football. Texas has the playmakers to give USC some trouble, but they will need to be nearly flawless on the offensive side of the ball.
Finally, I have concerns about the kicking game. It’s hard enough to go on the road and beat a top 5 team as is, but throw in shaky special teams play and it’s nearly impossible. I think Texas shows some positive signs in this game and it it will be something they can build off of, but USC is a playoff caliber team who dominated Stanford last week. It will be a good game, but Sam Darnold and USC will away in the 2nd half.
Score Prediction: USC 34, Texas 21
I’ve been looking for a reason all offseason to pick Texas to win this game, but it never came about. The season opener against Maryland and Texas likely trotting a true freshman out at quarterback doesn’t exactly help my confidence either. The Longhorns have a tall task ahead of them when it comes to slowing down an offense headlined by a future NFL draft pick in Sam Darnold. With the Texas secondary still trying to find their way, I think this could be a recipe for a disaster. If the Longhorns find a way to keep this game close for four quarters I will call that a win.
Score Prediction: USC 42 Texas 28
The sixth iteration of this rivalry won’t nearly compare with the previous match-up, but expect plenty of fireworks to fly as both teams will score a lot of points early and often. Any hopes of Texas coming in and upsetting Southern California will be squashed when USC QB Sam Darnold lights up a Texas defense that gave up 51 points to Maryland in the season opener. The Longhorns will shift between multiple quarterbacks this game, whether it be Shane Buechele, Jerrod Heard, Sam Ehlinger, a combination of 2 of them or perhaps even all 3. But this won’t fool the USC defense, as I expect the Trojans to win easily. Chris Warren III and Kyle Porter should prove to keep up their dominant rushing attack against a USC rushing defense that through 2 games has given up 60+ yards more per game than the Longhorns. Unfortunately for Texas, the Longhorn defense will be exposed by the dominance of the star sophomore Trojans QB Darnold. The game will be a shootout much like the last time these two teams met, but the Trojans will get their revenge match and take care of business at home.
Score Prediction: USC 41, Texas 27
In the biggest game of Tom Herman’s early career at Texas, the backdrop surrounding Texas vs. #4 USC has nothing to do with the last meeting between the two teams. In my opinion it has very little to do with Tom Herman’s 5-0 record when playing ranked opponents as an underdog. It has everything to do with the reality of where these two programs are right now.
Texas is reeling from 3 losing seasons under Charlie Strong, they are looking for an offensive identity, consistency on defense and a kicking game that can produce game-winning results. Headed into the third game of the season, the search is still underway.
USC boasts an NFL-ready quarterback in Sam Darnold, who leads a prolific offense that averages 45.5 points per game. The Trojan rushing offense ranks 18th in the nation, averaging 270 yards per game.
The Texas defense will have its hands full and things could get out of hand if Texas doesn’t find a way to slow a Darnold & company early on.
I don’t expect to see Shane Buechele behind center this game as he is still rehabbing an injured shoulder, which means the Ehlinger-Heard tandem will have to suffice at quarterback. The Longhorn rushing effort should see success against a USC defense that ranks 110th against the run. Expect Chris Warren to easily break the 100 yard mark tonight.
USC has home field advantage and Tom Herman will get his guys up for the matchup, but Darnold’s precision will be the difference in the end. The Texas secondary has struggled through two games, and USC will exploit poor matchups and soft coverage to their benefit.
Score Prediction: USC 45, Texas 31
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