• John Skinner

2017 Texas Preview

Updated: Aug 27, 2018

Fun stats/quotes from the Stanford victory- As the Stanford offensive coordinator stated – “SC beat us at our own game. We just got Standforted”.  Stanford head coach David Shaw without hesitating “They’re really good”.

*SC gained 623 yards- the most Stanford allowed in the David Shaw era. *In 73 offensive snaps, SC had only one that lost yardage.  *SC was of 10/12 on third down. *SC had 13 first-down plays which gained 8 yards or more.

Early preparation by the coaches and acknowledging their own tendencies paid off- The coaching staff relentlessly prepared for this game in the offseason and they also employed a Pete Carroll tactic of charting their own tendencies as a staff and looking for areas where they could be less predictable.  Some of the running plays on third down as well as the different defensive looks are a few examples of this.  A great job top to bottom by the coaching staff.

Stars in the trenches- The offensive line had one of its best performances in years and offensive tackle Chuma Edoga was dominant.  A pro scout told me that if he continues getting to second level blocks and sealing well on the outside, he could be a projected 1st round NFL pick.  Defensively, outside linebacker Uchenna Nwosu lived in the Stanford backfield and proved why Clancy Pendergast feels he is so vital to the defense.  Nwosu only had four tackles but read the QB very well and batted down five balls and had one sack.

Thank Keyshawn Johnson for helping deliver un-heralded Deontay Burnett to SC- Top wide-out Deontay Burnett was all set to go to Washington State but some issues popped up with the Cougars and it put the situation in limbo.  Burnett didn’t have many options at the time.  Burnett’s dream school was SC and though wide receiver coach Tee Martin loved his athleticism they didn’t have room in the 2015 recruiting class, which was still restricted by the NCAA.  Former SC all-time great Keyshawn Johnson mentored Burnett when he was in high school and believed he was vastly underrated and under-recruited.  Johnson peppered Sarkisian and Martin about the importance of getting Burnett into a Trojan uniform by “blue-shirting” him and having him receive his scholarship after arriving on campus and counting toward the next recruiting class.  Thankfully Sark and Martin listened to Keyshawn and SC’s offense is now reaping the benefits in ways only Keyshawn and Deontay envisioned.

Mitchell answers the call- Steven Mitchell stepped up and had a great game versus one of the best defensive backfields in college football.  His 4 receptions for 92 yards and 2 TD’s was a welcome sight to Trojans fans concerned about the Trojans’ receiver situation outside of Burnett.  Great to see him comeback like this after two torn ACL’s.

Reasons for current wide receiver depth chart- An offensive coach let us know that part of the reason we don’t see talented players like true freshman Joesph Lewis, getting more opportunities is that receivers Steven Mitchell, Jalen Greene and Velus Jones have a clear understanding of the offense and do subtle things from correct blocking to hustle plays that jump out to coaches but not the fans and the media.  Jones is also one of the fastest players on the team and they feel it is just a matter of time before he builds up a rapport with Darnold and makes big-time plays.   Joseph Lewis will continue to get more reps but the offense is complex and tough for a freshman to grasp.  Expect to see Michael Pittman get an expanded role once he is back from injury and redshirt freshman Tyler Vaughns has been receiving more first team reps in practice.

Key injuries could start to be a problem- Top tight-end target Daniel Imatorbhebhe will most likely be out for three or more games so he can fully recover from his hip flexor injury. Defensively, linebacker Porter Gustin and true freshman defensive tackle Marlon Tuipulotu, who started against Stanford, are both doubtful to play on Saturday.  Gustin injured his shoulder against Stanford but the MRI came back negative. However, he had surgery on Wednesday to repair a cracked toe.  He could possibly still play this week but more likely he’s back for the Cal game.  Gustin led USC in tackles for loss last season and sets the edge on the defense which will be very important against Texas, a team that stretches the field and targets defensive ends and outside linebackers with read-option runs.  Texas has averaged 252 rushing yards in its first two games.  The potential loss of Gustin and talented freshman Tuipolutu against a talented Texas run game that plays at a fast pace is not something to take lightly.

Why Texas (1-1) is a legitimate concern despite being a 15 point underdog- Besides the injuries we just discussed, Texas is always talented and will be looking to make a statement.  Defensively, they have All-American outside linebacker Malik Jefferson, a renowned run stopper that boasts athleticism that SC has not seen this year.  The Trojans should still be able to overwhelm them with the best offensive backfield in college football but keep an eye on Jefferson.

Sam Darnold has thrown 4 interceptions in two games. If SC is sloppy in the passing game and the wideouts drop balls like they did against Western Michigan, Texas will be able to keep the game close.

*Texas can score- Through two games they have 97 points and can run the ball. Running back Chris Warren III had 166 yards rushing and two TD’s versus San Jose State.  Top QB Shane Buechele was 34-52 for 375 yards in a week 1 loss (51-41) to Maryland. Buechele got banged up and back-up QB Sam Ehlinger was an efficient runner and ran the ball well against San Jose State.  Buechele should be ready to go and is the better thrower but Ehlinger could also provide a dual threat look to mix things up against SC.

*Potential let-down and penalties- It is tough for college level players to stay focused and hungry after a big victory.  Also, SC is averaging 92 penalty yards per game, ranking as one of the most penalized teams in the nation.

Why the Texas game is concerning – Part 2- The Herman factor- New Texas coach Tom Herman plays the role of the underdog better than anybody in the country.  He was 5-0 as the head coach at Houston when they were an underdog and he was 6-0 as the offensive coordinator at Ohio State in the underdog role.

Why SC will roll over Texas- SC is playing with the positive swagger and momentum of a top 5 team. The team has a Carroll era feel to it. This can break the Longhorns morale early if the offense starts rolling as SC possesses the best offensive backfield in the country. Texas does not have near the confidence of the Trojans. Though Texas has an explosive offense, they won't cover the spread if SC plays a disciplined game.

Bettor’s Guide- The spread opened with SC as a 14 point favorite and has since traded between 15 and 16 points. The over/under is 67.5.

USC is now 11-1 straight up “SU” and 8-4 against the spread “ATS: in games Darnold has started, while averaging 40 points per game. The Trojans have gone 8-3 ATS at the Coliseum under Helton. Ironically, SC is 0-3 straight up and against the spread in its last three games in week 3.   The total has gone over in SC’s last four games. Yet, the total has gone under in eight of Texas’ last nine games. Texas is 2-8 ATS in their past 10 road games.  SC is 7-2 ATS in its last nine games…

Geller’s Take: Defensive rotations are key for the Trojans vs. up-tempo Longhorns- The Texas Longhorn offense moves at a much higher pace than that of the Stanford Cardinal. While last week’s game was a war in the trenches, this Saturday’s game will be won by defensive rotations. The fast tempo of the Texas offense will mean Clancy Pendergast must rotate in players constantly, to keep bodies fresh. With key defensive players such as Porter Gustin, Marlon Tuipulotu, and John Houston questionable for this week, it’s a next man up situation. Look for Uchenna Nwosu to continue his dominance around the edge, and for Connor Murphy, who has had a fantastic week in practice filling in for Gustin as a rusher, to lead the front seven. Texas quarterback, Shane Buechele, is much more of a dual threat than USC faced last week, so the Trojans will have to keep him contained in the pocket and apply pressure; though he is a bit dinged up, he is expected to play Saturday. Pendergast will also need to dial up the blitzes, as he did last week against the Cardinal with great success.  -Austin Geller is a senior at St. Monica Catholic High School and USCfootball.com intern

Carol Skinner Memorial tid-bit- USC is ranked No. 7 in the nation in Athlon’s preseason college basketball top 25.

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