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Game Preview: Texas Longhorns vs. #21 USC Trojans

Texas looks to come out on top after suffering a heartbreaking loss to the Trojans last year. Can they come out on top?

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Photo: Jayne Kamin-Oncea, USA TODAY Sports

Two of college football’s most storied programs will meet on Saturday night in Austin when The Texas Longhorns (1-1) host the USC Trojans (1-1). USC holds a 5-1 all-time record over the Longhorns, with Texas’ lone win taking place at the Rose Bowl in 2006, earning the program its fourth national championship. The two teams met last in 2017 in Los Angeles, with #4 USC narrowly defeating Texas 27-24 in double overtime.  Texas defeated Tulsa at home last week 28-21, while USC lost to Stanford 17-3 in Palo Alto.

What:  Texas Longhorns (1-1, 0-0 Big 12) vs. USC Trojans (1-1, 0-1 Pac-12)
When:  Saturday, September 15, 2018
Time:  7:00 PM CST
Venue:  Darrell K. Royal – Texas Memorial Stadium
Location: Austin, TX
Television: FOX

The Coaches

USC TROJANS

Head Coach:  Clay Helton
Head Coaching Experience: 5th year as a head coach (held interim head coaching role at USC in 2013 & 2015)
Years as Head Coach at USC:  5
Career Record:  28-11
Career Record at USC:  28-11

TEXAS LONGHORNS

Head Coach:  Tom Herman
Head Coaching Experience: 4th year as a head coach
Years as Head Coach at Texas:  2
Career Record:  30-11
Career Record at Texas:  8-7

Turning Point for Texas?

Texas and Tom Herman found themselves in a similar position last year as they headed into Game 3 of the season.  The Longhorns were unable to turn the corner after USC’s victory and teetered around .500 play ever since.  This year Texas has an opportunity to bring a winning record into a rough stretch of conference play, something the Longhorns desperately need.  A win over the Top-25 ranked Trojans would do wonders for Tom Herman and the team’s psyche.  Another loss and another losing record after three games will only bring out more of Tom Herman’s critics, who will again question his efficacy and the direction of the program.  Herman has acknowledged the fans’ disappointment about a mediocre 2017 season and another season-opening loss against Maryland two weeks ago, but those expectations aren’t any higher than his for his team and players:

“The expectations that are put on us from the outside are never going to meet or exceed the expectations that we put on ourselves. And so yeah, I love our fans, absolutely love them and I hope they continue to stay as passionate about Texas football as they have been.”

Herman says fans can expect to see a team that’s continually improving and excited to play USC in front of a home crowd.

Can Ehlinger and the Offense get Cranking?

A big piece of the puzzle for Texas is the play of sophmore quarterback Sam Ehlinger.  Ehlinger, who has thrown for 500 yards this season, threw two key interceptions in the fourth quarter against the Terrapins and fumbled once in the win against Tulsa. He has improved from game one to game two, and he must play even better against a USC defense that limited a potent Stanford offense to just 17 points last week.   Ehlinger threw for 298 yards against the Trojans last year but also had 2 interceptions.

USC ranks 113 out of 129 teams in rushing defense and gives up 233.5 yards per game on the ground.  With Keaontay Ingram likely out for this game, Tre Watson and Daniel Young will carry the load in the Texas rushing attack, which averages 191.5 per game.  Texas hasn’t had a 100-yard rusher this season, but be on the watch for Tre Watson to potentially have a big game on Saturday night.

Texas Injuries

Zach Shacklelford – Center

The Longhorns will be without several key players in Saturday’s matchup against the Trojans, including starting center Zach Shackelford.  Shackelford, who missed the Tulsa game with a foot injury, is wearing a boot and will remain sidelined against USC.  The junior from Belton, Texas has played in 20 games and started in 18 of them in his 3rd year at Texas.  Senior Elijah Rodriguez started in place of the injured Shackelford at center in the Tulsa game, and will assume the same duties against the Trojans.

Keaontay Ingram – Running Back

Tom Herman lists running back Keaontay Ingram is listed as “highly doubtful” for participating in the contest against the Trojans. Ingram injured his knee in the win against the Golden Hurricane and was diagnosed with a deep bone bruise and a sprained MCL earlier in the week. Ingram, a true freshman, is averaging 6.3 yards per carry and has totaled 64 yards on the ground through two games.  Graduate transfer Tre Watson and Daniel Young are listed as co-starters on the depth chart, but expect to see Watson handle most of the carries.

John Burt -Wide Receiver

Burt continues to nurse a foot injury sustained in preseason camp.  The senior missed the Maryland and Tulsa games and is unavailable for USC.

DeMarvion Overshown – Linebacker

Overshown, a true freshman from Arp, continues to nurse an injured knee and will not play against USC. Overshown is expected to return in a couple of weeks, according to head coach Tom Herman.

Returns to the Field

While injuries will force several players out of Saturday’s game, the Longhorns will see several starters back in the lineup against the Trojans.  Safety Brandon Jones will make his return at safety after missing the Tulsa game with a high ankle sprain. Defensive backs Davante Davis and Kris Boyd were tabbed as ready to play against USC.  Davis left the Maryland game in the first half with a neck injury and subsequently missed the Tulsa game. Kris Boyd hasn’t missed any games this season but woke up with soreness in his neck after the Tulsa game.  Freshman linebacker Ayodele Adeoye‘s knee has healed from his preseason injury and will be available to play against the Trojans.

What’s at Stake?

Texas notched win #800 in 2006 when they defeated USC and claimed the 2005 BCS Championship.  The Longhorns enter Saturday’s contest with 899 wins and an opportunity to climb to 900 with a victory over the Trojans.  While all-time wins are important historically, Tom Herman and Texas are focused on being “1-0” each week.  This game is pivotal because of the momentum it possibly brings with a Texas win — something the Longhorns sorely need.

 

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Aaron Carrara is the founder and publisher of HornSports and has covered University of Texas athletics since 2011. Aaron is a member of the Football Writer's Association of America and the U.S. Basketball Writer's Association and is a proud father to three boys.

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