This matchup of college football blue bloods has lost plenty of luster through two games
Not at the moment, though. Neither squad has done anything so far this year to catch many eyes — at least, not in a good way. Through two games, UT has a loss on the books to Maryland and a wholly unimpressive win over Tulsa. For their part, the Trojans spent last week getting pushed around by Stanford in a 17-3 defeat.
Adding injury to insult, USC’s hotshot freshman quarterback JT Daniels hurt his hand versus the Cardinal, putting his status for Saturday up in the air. One of Texas’ freshman studs, running back Keontay Ingram, is working through a leg injury that might sideline him from the contest.
Even more insulting, one of these teams is leaving this game 1-2.
USC at Texas
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 15 at 8 p.m. ET
Spread: Texas -3.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Texas’ tempo
UT seems to have the most success moving the ball this year when the Longhorns can shift into their up-tempo offense. That doesn’t work so well when your team isn’t converting on third and fourth down, which UT has accomplished on a combined nine of 29 attempts (31 percent) this season.
More conversions mean more opportunities to run and gun.
2. Can either team run the ball?
Texas is averaging 4.6 yards per carry this season. USC is pumping out 4.4 yards per rushing attempt. That won’t cut it if either team expects opponent to honor its ground game. The side that can establish itself running the ball here will have a leg up when it comes to controlling possession and wearing down the opponent.
3. Are the Trojans worn out?
This may come off like a non-issue just three weeks into the season. However, USC is playing its second road game in as many weeks. A long trip to Austin puts the visitors at a disadvantage.
Given the choppiness of both of these offenses in their first two games, it feels like this game has true slugfest potential. Keep in mind that when the teams met in Los Angeles in 2017, they ended regulation tied at 17.
A grinder doesn’t seem to favor either team strongly in terms of how they play. However, USC’s road weariness could factor in late in the game. If the Trojans aren’t generating first downs consistently, that will mean leaving their fatigued defense on the field for too long.
Both of these teams badly need this win, even if it won’t tell us much about the program that comes out on the right side of the final score. Playing at home gives the edge to UT and head coach Tom Herman, who would likely get a one-week reprieve from questions about the direction of the Longhorns under his leadership.
Prediction: Texas 21, USC 17
— Written by Allen Kenney, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Kenney is founder and editor of BlatantHomerism.com and host of the Blatant Homerism Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @BlatantHomerism.