After 11 years, the wait is now just hours from being over — tonight, the Texas Longhorns will once again take the field against the USC Trojans after doing so in arguably the greatest college football game in 2006.
While USC once again boasts a national championship caliber product behind the Heisman hopeful arm of Sam Darnold, Texas will enter tonight's showdown as a rebuilding team simply looking for a staple victory. The 'Horns relished in similar opportunities in 2016, stealing wins over No. 10 Notre Dame and No. 8 Baylor, although, neither served as a turnaround for Charlie Strong's program.
It's possible that can finally change tonight, although the odds aren't in Texas' favor.
The 'Horns will kick off as 15.5-point underdogs and the eye test will tell you the challenge at hand as bigger than Texas, itself. Despite the roster being built around two top-10 classes worth of talent, the depth isn't ideal, health is a concern in some areas, such as quarterback, and the lack of a star offensive weapon when pitted against this USC team could be troublesome.
That's the bad news.
The good news is if there's a staff that has proven it can get more out of less, it's Tom Herman and a guy like defensive coordinator Todd Orlando. The two thrived in the underdog role at Houston to the tune of a 6-0 record over ranked competition, including wins over No. 9 Florida State, No. 3 Oklahoma and No. 5 Louisville.
Such a stat certainly provides some room for hope, but the reality is it would take a nearly perfect game from the guys in white and burnt orange to return to Austin 2-1.
This year's edition of the Trojans will feature as much star power and sheer talent at skill positions as any team Texas has seen since the Trevone Boykin-era TCU Horned Frogs, which collectively outscored Texas 98-17 in 2014 and 2015.
Now, with Herman at the helm and a talented and experienced roster, can Texas finally get over the hump and outlast a truly elite team tonight in Southern California?
Here’s how to watch and everything you’ll need to know as Texas attempts to do just that:
- Sam Ehlinger will get the start at QB for Texas. Davante Davis will also start at cornerback opposite of Holton Hill.
- Slowing USC’s Sam Darnold will be a colossal test for Texas.
“Can make every throw in the book, really can,” Texas head coach Tom Herman said this week. “From all different kinds of arm angles. And I think when you see him and you see his stature, you think, oh, this guy can't run. The guy can run. He's pretty elusive.”
- The Trojans’ front seven is battling injuries with Texas coming to town.
Linebacker Porter Gustin, who led the Trojans in tackles for loss last season, suffered a shoulder injury last weekend against Stanford and had two screws surgically inserted into his foot this week to repair what head coach Todd Helton described as a “small crack.” He’s listed as doubtful for the Texas game.
Also doubtful is defensive tackle Marlon Tuipuloti, who sprained a knee ligament against the Cardinal and could miss several weeks.
- All three Texas QBs will be available vs. USC.
- Tom Herman’s 6-0 record against ranked competition will be tested vs. USC.
The ‘Horns are 15.5-point underdogs against the Trojans, but Herman had plenty of success in that role — over an 11-game stretch as the offensive coordinator at Ohio State and head coach at Houston, his team won all 11 games up to the resounding win against Louisville last season.
“In this package it should be a lot higher than what it is,” Orlando said. “It's not like we're sitting there and playing base stuff. We're trying to move guys around. It's been addressed and it's got to pick up.”
- Malik Jefferson jokes about Ronald Jones II’s ‘Texas Tesla’ nickname.
How to watch, listen, and stream
Time: 7:30 p.m. CT
Radio: Texassports.com. Broadcasts are also available on Sirius 132, XM 199, and App Ch. 953
Online Streaming: FOX Sports GO
Weather: Partly cloudy with a high of 78 degrees, low of 64 degrees
Odds: USC (-15.5)