Last year the USC game was probably the first turning point of the Tom Herman era. The first week was a disaster, obviously, that featured horrendous defense and an injury to the starting QB. Week two was a little tuneup against a completely overmatched opponent before heading to Los Angeles to take on Sam Darnold and USC. The Texas defense shined on the road, looking like a completely different unit, while Sam Ehlinger came close to leading a big time comeback before late mistakes (by both himself and others) thwarted it. That kind of performance would define the rest of the season.
Texas needs something similar this year but with the positive ending. They need the defense to show strong at home against a freshman QB battling a hand injury, and for Ehlinger and the offense to finish opportunities and close the game out like veterans. A win against USC with the team’s defining attributes shining through would give them some helpful confidence and clarity heading into the “gauntlet” section of the schedule that looks increasingly navigable every week if this team can continue to put some pieces together.