Here are five key matchups in the Texas-USC game to keep your eye on Saturday:
Chris Warren III vs. Ronald Jones II
Warren is averaging 9 yards per carry and is coming off a performance in which he ran for 166 yards and two touchdowns. San Jose State ranks 122nd nationally in rushing defense, but 109th-ranked USC isn’t doing much better (allowing 216.5 yards per game). Jones, meanwhile, is averaging 6.7 yards per carry and 137.5 yards per game, and the Texas native will try to exceed the 132 yards that Maryland’s Ty Johnson posted on Texas in its opener.
Holton Hill vs. Deontay Burnett
Hill may be a cornerback but enters this weekend as Texas’ leading scorer through two games. That’ll happen when you return two interceptions and a blocked field goal for touchdowns. (With three in his career, Hill is one shy of UT’s all-time record for interceptions returned for scores). Texas doesn’t need Hill to score this week, but it will settle for him and Kris Boyd keeping Burnett, the Trojans’ leading receiver who’s coming off a two-touchdown game against Stanford, out of the end zone.
Texas’ pass rush vs. USC’s offensive line
Texas ranked fifth in the nation last season by averaging 3.42 sacks per game, and returned 12 players who had at least one sack. The Longhorns, though, have only recorded two sacks under new defensive coordinator Todd Orlando. (Opposing quarterbacks, however, have attempted 44 passes). USC has given up three sacks this season.
Texas’ road woes vs. USC’s comfy confines
Tom Herman has yet to hit the road with the Longhorns, but he inherited a team that’s 2-8 in true road games over the past two seasons. Those wins? Close calls against a Texas Tech team that couldn’t play defense and a Baylor team that was down to its fourth-string quarterback. USC, meanwhile, has won its last 11 games at home, two of which were this season’s 49-31 and 42-24 wins over Western Michigan and Stanford.
Texas vs. Vegas
How does Texas fare against the line? No, not No. 4 USC’s offensive or defensive lines, but the betting line. The Longhorns opened as a 14-point underdog and that line has crept up to 16 points. UT players say they aren’t bothered by those numbers — “It’s supposed to be like that, but we’re not going to really buy into it,” nickel back P.J. Locke III said — but will there be a moral victory in keeping this score close?
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