How USC and Texas match up in a rematch of the 2006 Rose Bowl Game

Texas' Malik Jefferson (46) and DeShon Elliott, right, help take down San Jose State's Tyler Nevens on Sept. 9.
(Tim Warner / Getty Images)
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No. 4 USC (2-0) vs. Texas (1-1)

Saturday, 5:30 p.m., Coliseum. TV: Fox. Radio: 710

Marquee matchup

USC running backs Ronald Jones II and Stephen Carr against Texas linebacker Malik Jefferson: Jones and Carr have been perhaps college football’s best running back duo. They’ve been difficult to tackle: Of Jones’ 275 rushing yards, 213 have come after contact, according to Trojans running backs coach Deland McCullough. Jefferson was a freshman All-American two seasons ago, an All-Big 12 selection last season and is Texas’ best defender.


Getting offensive

USC (572.0 ypg/45.5 ppg): Quarterback Sam Darnold returned to form last week, when he completed more than 80% of his passes and threw for 316 yards with four touchdowns. All that remains to clean up are the interceptions. He’s had two in each of the first two games. Receiver Deontay Burnett has been on a tear. He already has 16 catches for 263 yards and two touchdowns.

Texas (548.0 ypg/48.5 ppg): Texas coach Tom Herman has not revealed whether Shane Buechele, last season’s starter, will be the primary quarterback against USC, or whether he’ll go with freshman Sam Ehlinger. Buechele passed for 2,958 yards and 21 touchdowns with 11 interceptions as a freshman last season, but he missed Texas’ game last week because of a sore shoulder. Ehlinger passed for 222 yards and a touchdown in that contest. Either way, expect heavy doses of Texas’ big backs: Chris Warren III, who has averaged 9.0 yards per carry, and Kyle Porter (3.9).

Getting defensive

USC (349.5 ypg/27.5 ppg): USC’s secondary has been mostly untested. Neither Western Michigan (94 yards passing against USC) nor Stanford (172 yards passing) preferred to throw the ball. Texas will. That should provide a first good glimpse at a unit that has performed well statistically but has been vulnerable in passing situations thus far.

Texas (326.5 ypg/25.5 ppg): Which Texas defense will show up? The one that allowed 44 points in a loss to Maryland? (Texas gave up one additional score on a blocked field-goal attempt.) Or the one that shut out San Jose State? Defensive back Holton Hill has returned an interception for a touchdown in each of Texas’ games, and also returned a blocked field-goal attempt for a score.

Something special

Texas’ punt returner, Reggie Hemphill-Mapps, a freshman, has one punt return in his career. He took it 91 yards for a touchdown. The Longhorns have been less successful in kickoff coverage (111th nationally) and punt coverage (96th). USC’s special teams have been quiet. USC has returned only one punt in two games. Freshman kicker Chase McGrath has yet to attempt a field goal.

Of note

USC has sold out the Coliseum for the first time since 2013, and officials are encouraging fans to enter the stadium an hour early to avoid long lines. … Herman is 3-0 against top-five opponents in his career.


Local ties

Texas’ reserve defensive back Chase Moore, who is from Carson, attended Verbum Dei High. USC has five Texans: running backs Jones, Aca’Cedric Ware and Chris Edmondson, linebacker Levi Jones and quarterback Thomas Fitts.

Follow Zach Helfand on Twitter @zhelfand