With the weekend almost upon us, the anticipation of gameday grows. Tomorrow, the USC Trojans will host the Texas Longhorns in the Coliseum, their first meeting since their epic battle for the National Championship back in 2005. After a disappointing opening defeat at home to Maryland, Texas rebounded with a dominant shutout against San Jose State. Now, they must travel to LA to face one of the hottest teams in the country. We asked Burnt Orange Nation to go into more depth on their beloved team and what Trojan fans should look for come game time.
Brendan Kearney, Matthew Lowry-Conquest Chronicles
Cody Daniel-Burnt Orange Nation
Brendan: Following the opening loss to Maryland, how have Texas fans expectations for the season changed?
Cody: In general, fan's expectations dropped from a 9-3 or 8-4 season to 6-6 or 7-5. Most expected Texas to begin 2-0 and with the loss to Maryland, stealing a win over USC, Oklahoma or Oklahoma State now seems extremely improbable. Regardless of how much the team improves, the schedule isn't forgiving and fans seem to understand that. The expectation now is just beating who you're supposed to beat and making a bowl.
Matthew: We saw Texas’ defense bounce back week two after a tough opener, but now faces one of the best offenses in the country. Who has to play well for the Longhorns to limit the Trojans defensively?
Cody: Is everybody an option? But in all seriousness, USC's versatility makes it hard to pinpoint one or two players. Holton Hill will obviously have to have another spectacular game at cornerback, although the entire secondary will have to play at peak performance to have a chance. I think how successfully linebackers Malik Jefferson and Gary Johnson can limit Ronald Jones II from running wild will be key. To have any hope of a chance, Texas will have to make USC one dimensional and that will mean playing much better than they have in recent years.
Brendan: What can SC do to try to slow down RB Chris Warren III?
Cody: To stop Warren, USC will need to overwhelm the offensive line, just as Maryland did in Week 1 with disguised blitzes, twists and stunts. When he gets going, Warren has more speed than given credit for, often requires multiple tacklers and almost always falls forward. If the Trojans can fluster the offensive line and thus, gives the front seven room to run, they should be able to take away Texas' best option.
Brendan: How much do you think last week’s blowout win boosted team morale? Granted it was only SJSU, wins like that are still impressive.
Cody: Like you said, it was just SJSU, but the film shows plenty of corrected mistakes that cost the 'Horns against Maryland. I'm not sure on the moral that kind of win provides with a team like USC looming, but the Texas should feel much better about what it can do when the execution is on point.
Brendan: Coach Herman has been known for big upsets during his time at Houston? What adjustments do you expect to see from him and his staff?
Cody: Remember the Louisville game last season, where Herman and Todd Orlando's defense racked up 11 sacks and dominated Lamar Jackson? I don't see them finding anywhere near that level of success against Sam Darnold and USC, but I think that will be the message. They'll try to overwhelm and confuse him and hope for some sacks and a turnover or two. If that doesn't work, what happens offensively won't matter much, but I could see Texas capitalizing on Warren's ground game and taking some shots deep if the defense sleeps. After all, Buechele did connect on 12 touchdown passes of at least 20 yards as a freshman.
Matthew: There are reports that Tom Herman is not set on who will start for the Longhorns this weekend. Do you believe that'll hurt or help Texas for this weekend and do you believe Herman’s statement?
Cody: I don't believe Herman isn't set on a starter. The latest reports as of Friday morning are that Ehlinger took first-team reps on Thursday, but I still think a healthy Shane Buechele starts. If you have any hope of competing against USC, you don't throw a true freshman with one start against San Jose State into the fire and tell him keep up with Sam Darnold and co. I simply see it as Herman playing his cards close to vest for as long as possible, for whatever edge that may give Texas.
Brendan: What’s your bold prediction for this game?
Cody: My bold prediction is that this will be a one-score game at some point in the fourth quarter. It would be the kind of situation where Texas capitalizes on a turnover and scores after being down 14, providing some hope if the 'Horns can get a stop. But I still see USC pulling away down the stretch, similar to Maryland.
Special thanks to BON for working with us, make sure you check their website out to see the other half of this Q&A. You can watch the Trojans face off against the Longhorns on FOX tomorrow, September 16 5:30 pm PST.