The Obvious: Each representing one of college football most storied programs, the No. 4 USC Trojans (2-0, 1-0 Pac-12) and the Big 12’s Texas Longhorns (1-1, 0-0 Big 12) will do battle this Saturday evening in a sold-out Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum (5:30 p.m. PT), and it will be the first meeting of these two legendary programs in a regular season game since 1967.
The Not So Obvious: While most Texans, the nation, and a heartbroken USC fan base recall the classic BCS title game in the 2006 Rose Bowl – a gut-wrenching, last-second 41-38 USC loss at the hands of phenomenal Longhorns quarterback Vince Young – it should be noted in that 1967 regular season game, the Trojans edged the Horns 17-13 in Los Angeles that helped propel legendary Trojans coach John McKay towards his second national title.
The Obvious: The Trojans opened a 17-point favorite to defeat Texas.
The Not So Obvious: The Trojans are currently riding an 11-game winning streak. Forget about the NCAA sanctions, the series realistically stands at 4-1 in favor of the Men of Troy. The two teams have played past regular season games in 1955, 1956, 1966, and 1967. So, Saturday’s game marks 50 years since the Longhorns paid a visit to the City of Angels without a bowl assignment. Oh, and as a public service message, fans attending Saturday’s game are strongly encouraged to enter the Coliseum an hour earlier than usual to avoid long security lines, which can prevent the faithful from seeing the pregame and the opening kickoff. FYI, first-year Texas head coach Tom Herman was 6-0 against Top 25 opponents as head coach at the University of Houston, his previous employer.
The Obvious: Saturday’s game featuring the Trojans and the Longhorns will be nationally televised on FOX (5:30 p.m. PT/8:30 p.m. ET).
The Not So Obvious: The FOX broadcasters for Saturday night’s big game will be Gus Johnson (play-by-play), Joel Klatt (analysis), and Jenny Taft (sidelines).
The Obvious: Saturday’s Trojans’ game radio broadcast from the Coliseum will air live (5:30 PT) on ESPNLA 710 AM with Pete Arbogast (play by play), John Jackson (analyst) and Jordan Moore (sideline).
The Trojans ESPNLA 710 USC pregame show (1:30 p.m. PT) and two-hour post-game show will feature a variety of talent that includes Arbogast, Jackson, Moore, Shaun Cody, Chris Fisher, Travis Rodgers, Dennis Thurman, Rachel Frain, and WeAreSC publisher Garry Paskwietz.
The Not So Obvious: The Texas broadcast can be heard on flagship station KTXX(104.9 FM) with Craig Way (play-by-play), Roger Wallace (analyst) and Quan Cosby (sidelines). The game will also be broadcast on ESPN national radio with Bill Rosinski (play-by-play) and David Norrie (analyst), and Ian Fitzsimmons (sidelines).
Saturday’s game will also air on Sirius XM satellite radio (channel 84), online channel 84 and on the Tuneln Radio app.
The Obvious: Saturday’s Los Angeles weather calls for sunny with a high of 76 degrees, low of 62 degrees, 69 percent humidity, and 10 percent precipitation.
The Not So Obvious: The real weather report is whether the Trojans can continue to dominate offensively on the ground against a physical Texas defensive front, and whether the Trojans’ defensive line can withstand an equally physical Longhorns’ offensive line… We’ll see whether the number of injured Trojans (OLB Porter Gustin – toe surgery/questionable, NT Marlon Tuipulotu – sprained knee/out, TE Daniel Imatorbhebhe – hip issue/out) is a factor in the game… We’ll find out whether the Trojans defense is ready for an explosive Longhorns offense under head coach Tom Herman, who was once the valued offensive coordinator under Ohio State’s Urban Meyer. BTW, Texas ran for 406 yards last week against San Jose State… We’ll see whether the Trojans passing game under quarterback Sam Darnold and his receivers will continue to grow and expose a very suspect Longhorns secondary, a perceived weakness. Conversely, we’ll see whether the Trojans’ defense can adjust to whomever Texas uses at quarterback, freshman Sam Ehlinger, a lethal runner, or experienced Shane Buechele (who ranks 11th on UT’s career pass yardage chart)… We’ll find out whether the Longhorns team that shows up in the Coliseum on Saturday is the team that lost its opener to Maryland at home, 51-41, or the team that thrashed San Jose State 56-0 last Saturday in Austin… We’ll also see whether the Trojans will finally need field goals from true freshman placekicker Chase McGrath, who has yet to attempt a field goal in 2017. With kicking teammate Michael Brown gone for the season with a torn ACL, we’ll find out whether McGrath can handle the full kickoff and placekicking for the foreseeable future. Junior punter Reid Budrovich now backs up McGrath… We’ll also find out whether the sold-out Coliseum can intimidate the Longhorns and energize the Trojans with a sustained vocal and intimidating noise factor that got to the Stanford Cardinal.
The Obvious: The 2017 Trojans offense averages 45.5 points per game while the Texas defense is allowing 25.1 points per outing.
The Not So Obvious: The 2017 Texas offense averages 48.5 points per game while the Trojans defense is allowing 27.5 points per game.
The Obvious: Much is expected from new Texas head coach Tom Herman.
The Not So Obvious: Assessing the Trojans, coach Herman, who grew up in local Simi Valley and attended Cal Lutheran where he was an all-conference receiver, says, “We are an underdog. I mean, this is — they’ve been doing this a while at Southern Cal, we haven’t. Great season last year. Quarterback is as good as there is in the country. Skill position players all over the place that are good as there is in the country. Coaching staff and the scheme that’s as good as there is in the country. So, yeah. I mean, I would say they’re definitely the favorite.”
The Obvious: Trojans quarterback Sam Darnold returned to Heisman Trophy frontrunner form last week in the victory over Stanford, and Texas coach Tom Herman is well aware of what Darnold can do to a defense.
The Not So Obvious: Regarding Darnold, Herman says, “I recruited him a little bit when I was at Ohio State. His high school is right down the road from where my mom lives, so really a football smart guy. Can make every throw in the book, really can. 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 illusive.”
The Obvious: The Texas defense will be geared to stopping or containing Trojans quarterback Sam Darnold.
The Not So Obvious: Regarding the Texas defense, Darnold says, “I see athleticism and that jumps out at me. They are obviously huge, too. They’re good-looking athletes and obviously disciplined, as well. They’re going to be a challenge on Saturday for sure.”
The Obvious: The Trojans will need a strong defensive effort to contain the Texas offense.
The Not So Obvious: Says Trojans’ premier junior inside linebacker Cameron Smith, “They have a big O-line and physical. They have a great run game, and I think both their quarterbacks that they plan on playing can do special things, have a great arm, and they can extend plays. We see a lot of spread in the Pac-12, so that part of it is nothing new, but they do a lot of things well. I think their spread is a lot like Penn State. They’ll take some shots and a lot of balls coming out.”
The Obvious: Being from Texas, Saturday’s game is personal for Trojans junior tailback Ronald Jones ll.
The Not So Obvious: On his thoughts about playing Texas, Jones says, “It’s pretty cool, I know half the team. We’ve been talking and going back and forth on Twitter, and the game is sold out so that should be fun, too.”
The Obvious: A key to the game will be the Trojans offensive line controlling the Texas front 7.
The Not So Obvious: Appraising the Texas defensive front, Trojans starting left tackle Toa Lobendahn says, “They look phenomenal on paper. They are fast and strong and do a lot of movements on defense, so they’re moving side-to-side with blitzes coming.”
The Obvious: The Longhorns have a big and physical running back in junior Chris Warren lll, who hails from Rockwall, Texas.
The Not So Obvious: When you talk about big and physical, you’re talking about Warren, who is a 6-foot-4, 255-pounder and averages 9.0 yards per carry. His father, Chris Warren, played 11 seasons in the NFL primarily with the Seattle Seahawks (1990-97) and Dallas Cowboys (1998-2000), and was a three-time Pro Bowler with the Seahawks (1993-95).
The Obvious: Despite a quarterback controversy, Texas will probably go with experienced quarterback Shane Buechele, who was held out last week against San Jose State due to a shoulder injury.
The Not So Obvious: Buechele’s father, Steve Buechele, attended local Anaheim Servite High before going on to a successful major league baseball career.
The Obvious: Last Saturday, the Trojans offensive line executed a dominant performance against Stanford.
The Not So Obvious: The Texas offensive line has a good one in 2016 preseason first-team All-American offensive tackle Connor Williams (6-6, 315) from Coppell, Texas.
The Obvious: The Trojans have five players from Texas on the roster.
The Not So Obvious: Those Trojans from Texas include TBs Ronald Jones ll (McKinney), Aca’Cedric Ware (DeSoto) and Chris Edmondson (Cibolo), ILB Levi Jones (Austin), and QB Thomas Fitts (Dallas).
The Obvious: Texas has four players from California.
The Not So Obvious: Californians on the Texas roster include WR Collin Johnson (San Jose), RB Kirk Johnson (San Jose), K Jack Geiger (San Jose), and DB Chase Moore (Carson).
The Obvious: And finally, the Trojans will have some special game promotions scheduled for Saturday.
The Not So Obvious: Among the promotions for the Texas game will be honoring former Trojans quarterback Matt Leinart, the 2004 Heisman Trophy winner, for his election into the College Football Hall of Fame. A 360-degree Giga-Pixel panorama photograph of the Coliseum will be shot from the field and made available for purchase by fans who will be able to tag themselves in the photo.