Here is everything you need to know about the Longhorns upcoming game in Los Angeles in our Texas at USC preview.
7:35 p.m. Central Time, Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017, Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum (92,348 Capacity)
TV: FOX (Gus Johnson, Joel Klatt, Jenny Taft)
Radio: Longhorn IMG Radio Network (Craig Way, Roger Wallace, Quan Cosby), Sirius 132, XM 199, ESPN Radio (Bill Rosinski, David Norrie, Ian Fitzsimmons)
He has three touchdowns in the first two games. Not impressed? Well, that’s because we’re talking about a defensive player. Hill has two pick-sixes this season, and another touchdown after recovering a blocked field goal. The Trojan offense is probably going to steer clear of Hill, but if the front seven places USC quarterback Sam Darnold under pressure, watch out. Another statistic to keep an eye on is the amount of tackles Hill makes. During the 51-41 loss to Maryland, Hill was second on the team with eight tackles. All of those were solo. During a 59-0 win, the front seven didn’t provide Hill an opportunity to make one. The fewer tackles Hill has, the better chances of a Texas victory.
The offensive line
The offensive line is always a key, but more so in the Longhorns current situation. Three of Texas’ starting five have made double-digit starts. This includes junior left tackle Connor Williams, who was a consensus first-team All-American in 2016. Meanwhile, they are guaranteed to have an underclassman starting at quarterback whether it’s sophomore Shane Buechele or true freshman Sam Ehlinger. With a hostile crowd and a defense that has recorded four interceptions in its first two games, expect mistakes to be made in the passing game. This offensive line must protect the quarterback.
Chris Warren III
This can almost fall into the category with the offensive line. Warren’s job is not just scoring touchdown and running all over the gridiron. His primary job is to take the pressure off his underclassman quarterback in a hostile environment. Sometimes, Warren will have to take a loss to keep the defense honest. However, he is known for bursts of mega amounts of yardage. If the Trojan defense has a weakness, it comes against the rushing attack. Western Michigan racked up 263 yards on the ground against the USC defense. Then again, the Broncos ran the ball (48) more than twice the amount of times they attempted a pass (23).
ILB Cameron Smith
This is a man who played against eighth graders when he was in fourth grade. Cameron Smith is an All-American linebacker who seems to always be in the right place at the right time (except when he was ejected for targeting in the second half of the 2017 Rose Bowl). Despite having to sit out for the first half of this season, Smith already leads the team in tackles (14) and tackles for loss (2.5). He is the heart and soul of the Trojan defense. If Smith clogs up the Texas running game, the Longhorns will finish their non-conference slate with a losing record.
LB Uchenna Nwosu
He’s a linebacker, but he leads the nation in pass break-ups with six. He is a menace when it comes to the opposing passing attack. Additionally, he has a sack and 11 total tackles. If Smith stops the rushing game, Nwosu could have a career night, and is licking his chops at the opportunity to face a youthful quarterback.
QB Sam Darnold
If the Trojan rushing attack is hitting on all cylinders like it has this season, he won’t be needed all too much. However, this sophomore quarterback has a weakness this season. Despite being an early Heisman contender (44-of-59, 605 yards, 4 TD), he’s thrown as many interceptions as he’s thrown touchdowns. The offensive line replaced three starters this year. Texas has a linebacking crew that features experienced underclassmen who were blue chip recruits. If the Longhorn defense manages to stop the two-headed monster USC has in the rushing attack, Holton Hill could be in for another pick-six.
There’s a ball game going on
It’s time to forget about the 2006 Rose Bowl. Yes, it was one of the greatest games of all-time. Save the chatter for a day of golf though. We are in 2017. So what if USC acts as if the loss is somehow vacated. It’s not important. What is important is public perception and the effect this game could have on which Power Five conference is left out of the College Football Playoff. This is a must-win for the Pac-12. The Trojans were picked to win the conference. Can you imagine how bad the Pac-12 will look if Texas goes into The Coliseum and wins this game? Also, that should be the cherry on top after a stellar week for the Big 12 if some other teams (Texas Tech, Kansas State, Oklahoma State) take care of business.
Sophomore Shane Buechele might lose his starting job if he can’t go, and Sam Ehlinger has an ecstatic performance. USC has a solid defense. If Ehlinger proves that he can compete at an elite level, it might send Buechele to the bench. This could also be the case if Buechele does get the start and doesn’t perform to the standard Texas needs him. Regardless, both quarterbacks are now in a battle. The one who scores victories will get the nod. Despite a major difference in competition, Ehlinger is undefeated. Buechele is winless this season.
USC 49 Texas 24
Despite its talent, the Texas defense just has not lived up to expectations. Add in a couple of underclassmen quarterbacks who will face the best defense they’ve seen all year in one of the most hostile environments in the nation, and you can forget about this one. Warren can give Texas a shot if he is about push through the front seven of Troy. USC’s line has proven worthy so far, and Stanford is supposed to be better than Texas this season. Keep the expectations low for the Longhorns this week. There is a small chance they pull off the upset, but we don’t see it happening.