Trojans. Longhorns. Part III.
When Texas and USC met in the 2006 BCS National Championship at the Rose Bowl, it became one of the most iconic football games ever played. The two teams hadn’t met on the gridiron until last season. While both teams hadn’t competed at the same level as they did in the mid-2000’s in a couple years, Texas and USC gave college football fans another masterpiece. In a defensive, back-and-forth battle, USC emerged victorious, 27-24, in double overtime.
So what does part three have in store?
USC is coming off an underwhelming performance at Stanford. Freshman quarterback JT Daniels was harassed all night and was sacked four times, while being forced into two interceptions and a fumble. The Trojans also got off to a sluggish start in their season opener against UNLV, but finished the game by scoring 24 points in the fourth quarter to defeat the Rebels, 43-21. Daniels has 497 yards passing through two games, but has just one touchdown to two interceptions. The USC rushing attack has been a three-headed monster with senior Aca’Cedric Ware leading the way 159 yards. Sophomores Stephen Carr and Vavae Malepeai are also averaging over five yards per carry.
Defensively, the Trojans have plenty of returning experience, led by seniors Porter Gustin, Cam Smith and Marvell Tell III. USC had trouble slowing down UNLV’s rushing attack, surrendering 308 yards to the Rebels, but cleaned up the run defense by holding Stanford and Heisman-hopeful Bryce Love to just 159 yards on the ground.
Texas stumbled to start the season with a loss to Maryland. The Longhorns dug themselves a 24-7 hole early against the Terrapins, but rallied and actually led 29-24 in the third quarter. Maryland scored the game’s final 10 points to beat Texas, 34-29. The Longhorns came back in week two and beat Tulsa, 28-21, but it wasn’t exactly what the fans in burnt orange were hoping for. UT has playmakers on offense, but they need more consistency. Sophomore quarterback Sam Ehlinger has stepped up in big moments, with his arm and legs, while senior Tre Watson and freshman Keaontay Ingram have paced the running backs. Texas has two big playmakers on the outside in junior wide receivers Lil’Jordan Humphrey (6’4”, 225 lbs) and Collin Johnson (6’6”, 220 lbs).
The defense in Austin returned 13 letterwinners, including four of five primary defensive lineman. It’s early in the year, but the Longhorns haven’t quite gelled on the defensive side of the ball. Texas ranks 69th in the country in passing defense and 90th in rushing defense. But one area where Texas has stood out to this point in on third down. The Longhorns have held opponents to a 28-percent third down conversion rate, which is 29th in the country.
All in all, this game is pitting two of college football’s prestigious programs in a game that should be just as exciting as the previous two. Buckle up folks.