The last time the USC Trojans faced the Texas Longhorns, they were the top two teams in college football. It was the 2006 Rose Bowl. Pete Carroll’s Trojans were the defending National Champions, and Mack Brown’s Longhorns spoiled the party with a pair of late fourth-quarter touchdown runs by quarterback Vince Young. Final score: Texas (+7) 41, USC 38.

Things have changed a bit since then. Both programs have gone through some hard times in recent years, but the No. 4 Trojans are back in fine form under second-year head coach Clay Helton. The Longhorns, on the other hand, are in Year 1 under Tom Herman, and they’re 17-point road dogs for Saturday’s game (8:30 PM ET, FOX) against USC.

Herman has a big choice to make at quarterback. Sophomore Shane Buechele suffered a bruised shoulder in the Week 1 loss to Maryland, leaving true freshman Sam Ehlinger at the controls when Texas crushed San Jose State in Week 2. The good news for Herman is that he inherited a quality offensive line from his predecessor, Charlie Strong. USC also has plenty of protection in front of quarterback Sam Darnold; Saturday’s total of 68 points is definitely within reach in this marquee matchup, no matter who starts for the ‘Horns.


Be Champions

While the Texas-USC game soaks up the spotlight, Saturday’s game between the No. 3 Clemson Tigers and the No. 14 Louisville Cardinals promises to be top-quality. The Tigers are the defending National Champions, and they have yet to miss a beat with junior Kelly Bryant replacing Deshaun Watson (now with the Houston Texans) at quarterback. Clemson is a 3.5-point road favorite at press time, up from –3 at the open. Kick-off is at 8 PM ET on ABC.

Football fans will also be glued to their screens for Saturday’s big SEC East matchup (3:30 PM ET, CBS) between the No. 23 Tennessee Volunteers and the No. 24 Florida Gators. This is an unusual situation for the Gators, who had their Week 2 game against Northern Colorado washed out by Hurricane Irma. The Volunteers failed to beat the spread in their first two games, but they’ve already moved from +5.5 to +4.5 for this contest.

With all these great games on tap, it’s easy to forget about the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide. They’ve got a relatively easy matchup with the Colorado State Rams on Saturday (7 PM ET, ESPN2), but can the Tide cover that 29-point spread? They didn’t get the job done in last week’s 41-10 win over Fresno State (+42 away). Injuries from their season-opening win over Florida State have taken their toll, especially on defense. This game could turn out to be a lot more important for ‘Bama than expected as they prepare for conference play in the mighty SEC.


*Odds as of September 15, 2017