The USC Trojans are traveling to Austin, Texas on Saturday in what will be one of the most watched, if not the most watched game of the week. We speak with Gerald Goodridge from SB Nation’s Texas Longhorns site Burt Orange Nation to gain some insight on what USC can expect from Texas in their rematch.
1. Texas’ first two games haven’t been ideal in terms of performance, do you think that like last year the game against USC will bring a heightened playing level from the Longhorns?
This year’s Texas teams feels like they play to the level of their opponent, for better or for worse, so I think that the Longhorns will play up this week and show off more than they have in the last two weeks. With the hype surrounding the game, the prestige of playing against USC, and the change in game day procedures to (hopefully) make the crowd better for home games, I anticipate this team playing significantly better than the last two weeks.
2. There was a quarterback battle between Sam Ehlinger and Shane Buechele in fall camp, do you think USC will get to see both quarterbacks or is the job Ehlinger’s alone? What is one strength and one weakness that USC might force Ehlinger to showcase?
Barring an injury or a catastrophic start, I don’t imagine we will see anyone under center other than Sam Ehlinger. The coaches gave him the vote of confidence after the last two performances, and I haven’t seen anything change this week. I think a strength that Ehlinger needs to show on Saturday is his running ability, even if it’s just to make the USC defense respect the “R” portion of the RPO. That will should open things up in the passing game, and get Texas’s most-talented group, their receiving corps, involved. In the passing game, Ehlinger’s tendency to let balls float when he feels rushed is a pretty easily-exploitable flaw for a talented defense. Some of his highlight-worthy throws this year were slightly overthrown, thinking specially the long passes to Devin Duverany and Collin Johnson against Maryland. If Ehlinger feels rushed in the pocket, you may see one or two overthrown passes, which you could see the Trojans defenders take the other way.
3. The Texas defense lost a few big guys to graduation and the NFL Draft, what can we expect from the Longhorns this week against a USC team that has a multitude of weapons yet has struggled to utilize them to their full potential in their first two games?
The defensive difference-maker for Texas is their ability, or lack thereof, to put pressure on the quarterback. Through two games, Texas has one sack, from cornerback Kris Boyd, in spite of having a guys like Charles Omenihu and Breckyn Hager along the edge. The lack of consistent threat in the pass rush, has put young, but talented defensive backs in a position to need to hold their coverage for longer. We saw against both Maryland and Tulsa, that even though the defensive backs are talented, they will still occasionally struggle due to the simple fact of not having a ton of time in the saddle. If Texas can find a way to generate pressure on JT Daniels and force him to make a few bad decisions, guys like Caden Sterns and BJ Foster to show off why they were top recruits in the 2018 class.
4. What are some keys to the game for Texas?
I think the two keys are the pass rush and the running game. JT Daniels is way too talented to let him stand in the backfield without any pressure. Things are going to get really dicey in the secondary for Texas if the line and linebackers can’t get to Daniels early and often. In the run game, Texas’s biggest need is to create some room for Ehlinger to make reads. He’s shown several times this season that he is able to go through his progressions and look off defenders if-necessary. Not having Keaontay Ingram hurts Texas, so Texas needs Tre Watson, Daniel Young, or the yet-to-be-seen Toneil Carter to string together some decent plays and give Texas the ability to be varied on offense.
5. If Texas loses to USC, what do you think the reaction will be from fans about Tom Herman? Will they be calling for his job or do Texas fans stand by him?
Well since there is a vocal minority of fans already calling for his head, I can only imagine what the roar will be like if Texas loses. With things trending upward quickly in College Station, both on the field and in recruiting, Longhorn fans will be at a fever pitch if Texas is 1-2 once again this year.
6. Give us a score prediction for the game?
I think it’s legitimately a pick-em. But whichever team wins, I think we’re looking at a 35-28ish kind of game.