AUSTIN – During his two years at Houston, Tom Herman’s Cougars developed a knack for knocking off ranked opponents.
Houston went 6-0 against top-25 foes with Herman at the helm, including victories over No. 9 Florida State in the 2015 Peach Bowl and No. 3 Oklahoma in the 2016 season opener.
Texas (1-1) dropped five of nine contests against ranked teams during that same period.
Herman’s Longhorns enter Saturday’s meeting with No. 4 USC at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum as more than a two-touchdown underdog, per Bovada. That’s not a fact the coach has shied away from.
“We are an underdog,” Herman said. “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 as good as there is in the country. Coaching staff and a scheme that’s as good as there is in the country. I would say they’re definitely the favorite.”
Herman’s right; USC should be heavily favored over the Longhorns.
The Trojans (2-0) are fresh off a 42-24 win over then-No. 14 Stanford that solidified their spot among this year’s batch of College Football Playoff contenders.
In that game, quarterback Sam Darnold threw 316 yards and four touchdowns. Running backs Ronald Jones (116 yards) and Stephen Carr (119 yards) propelled the team to its first 300-yard rushing game versus a ranked opponent since the 2008 Rose Bowl. Receivers Deontay Burnett and Steven Mitchell each caught a pair of touchdowns.
Herman understands this challenge might be too more for UT right now. Not that he’d ever concede victory before a game had even been played, but Herman expects his team to at least show a needed edge and “recklessness” if it cannot outright win.
On Monday, Herman remembered a call he received a coupe of years ago after Houston upset the Sooners, a team with legitimate national title aspirations.
“I had an assistant from Oklahoma call me the day after we beat Oklahoma,” Herman recalled, “and he said, ‘I’ve been here 17 years and that’s the hardest playing, hardest hitting team we’ve played.’ As a head coach that’s, regardless of the score, if you can have an opponent – win, lose, or draw – call you the next day and tell you that then I think you’re onto something pretty good.”
He’d love for the Longhorns to earn that kind of respect.
Herman vowed to have UT prepared for its most daunting true road game of the year. A victory would erase the team’s ugly Week 1 loss to USC and secure some serious momentum entering Big 12 play.
“We’re not going to leave any stone unturned,” he said. “We’re not going to leave any ‘i’ not dotted and any ‘t’ not crossed. We’ll be in as good a place mentally as we can be. I have confidence that they’ll respond. They showed me a lot last week with how they responded and now we’ve got to take yet another step in maturing to go be able to beat a top-five team on the road.”