Texas Longhorns vs. USC Trojans Preview and Prediction

Ross Houston
September 17, 2017

The last time the two met, they produced the greatest college football game of all time, a classic between two historically talented teams.

Both of these storied programs have had their recent stumbles. The Longhorns won the last matchup in 2006, but these two teams have not played in a regular season game since 1967.

But given the circumstances, it's hard to have asked for anything more than what the Trojans and Longhorns delivered this time.

The journey to get there proved to be full of surprising twists. USC's continued strong play has also bolstered its position on the national championship odds, where it trails only Alabama as a +600 bet to claim its first national title since 2004. USC stopped Texas on fourth-and-two at the Trojans' 17.

For much of the first two quarters of Saturday's clash with Texas, No. 4 USC struggled to gain separation.

Unfortunately, Ehlinger had a rough finish to his night after being stripped of the football near the goal line in the second overtime that would eventually be capped off by the Casey McGrath game victor for USC.

Elliott managed to make a shoestring catch of USC quarterback Sam Darnold's tipped pass, returning the interception 38 yards for the then-game-tying touchdown. Fortunately for USC, it got the touchdown back on a insane catch-and-run by tailback Ronald Jones, who went 56 yards for a touchdown on the final play.

A game that was scoreless for the first 27 minutes featured three TDs in the final 2:40 of the half - a sign of things to come at the end of the game.

You have to give a ton of credit to Texas though, as they scored the go-ahead touchdown with 45 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.

What the Longhorns defense did was give the offense a chance by holding USC in check, a hallmark of Todd Orlando's defenses at Houston against ranked opponents (think of the pressure on Louisville's Lamar Jackson).

In place of the injured Shane Buechele, Ehlinger had the ball for Texas, needing to go 91 yards to tie the game. Darnold has tossed four picks this year, but he's completing 74.6 percent of his throws and has thrown for 605 yards on 44 completions. However, this season has not been easy for Darnold for the first two games. First, he found Armanti Foreman for what looked to be the go-ahead touchdown and then later found Cade Brewer for a score in the first overtime. Velus Jones dropped a potential dagger of a deep ball and Texas punt returner Reggie Hemphill-Mapps twice caught a punt near the goal line. Last season, Darnold threw for 31 touchdowns and over 3000 yards.

The Texas defense has only surrendered 348 passing yards this season (Maryland: 219; San Jose State: 129) but it has yet to face a combination likes of Darnold and receivers Deontay Burnett and Steven Mitchell. The quarterbacks again became the focal point of the Texas run game, between Ehlinger and Jerrod Heard in the Wildcat package. But three straight sacks (two for junior linebacker Porter Gustin, one for redshirt sophomore linebacker Christian Rector), placed all the momentum in USC's favor as the Coliseum crowd game unglued.

In his first career start, true freshman quarterback Sam Ehlinger led the Longhorns to whopping 623 yards of total offense, including 406 yards on the ground.

The Longhorns have an off week before a Thursday night game at Iowa State, a potential trap spot.

Texas underwhelmed in its season opener versus Maryland, but all is forgiven if Tom Herman can guide his team to victory against the No. 4 Trojans.

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