LOS ANGELES — When the College Football Playoff selection committee passed over Big Ten champion Penn State last December in favor of Ohio State for one of the four bids, Kirby Hocutt, its chairman, pointed to one prominent reason: the Buckeyes’ marquee nonconference victory.
In September of last year, Ohio State routed then 14th-ranked Oklahoma.
When he explained the decision, Hocutt said, “the selection committee respects that kind of schedule.”
USC has similar playoff aspirations as it plays host to Texas on Saturday night.
The game will mark the first time the teams have met since their clash for the national championship in the 2006 Rose Bowl, considered one of the greatest games in college football history, but it also remains an early-season opportunity for the Trojans to command national attention during a prime-time broadcast.
“When you look at us in a playoff-system world,” USC coach Clay Helton said, “you better create a great resume.”
To be sure, defeating the Longhorns won’t equate to defeating the Sooners. It’s not quite a parallel. Texas has not finished a season ranked since 2012 or above .500 since 2013.
But Helton was effusive in his praise of the program, beginning its first season under Coach Tom Herman.
“This team is going to be a sleeping giant,” Helton said. “They’re going to be one of those teams that you look up and is going to get better and better and better each and every week.”
In December, Texas might look like a quality foe on a regular-season schedule that already includes Notre Dame and nine Pac-12 games, the historic powerhouse beefing up the Trojans’ slate.
WHEN USC HAS THE BALL
In a dominant win over Stanford last week, USC opened with four consecutive running plays.
“Those are the times when you kind of impose your will as a team and as an offensive line,” right guard Viane Talamaivao said. “It’s just a great feeling.”
It was a tell, too.
Led by running backs Ronald Jones, a junior, and Stephen Carr, a freshman, the Trojans ultimately finished with 307 yards on the ground.
No team had compiled more rushing yards against Stanford since 2010, then led by Jim Harbaugh.
“We’ve worked so hard over this last year to be the team that can run the ball when we must to win games,” Helton said.
After Stanford’s run of dominance in recent seasons, the Trojans looked more physical.
USC’s steady run game eased the burden for quarterback Sam Darnold and his new corps of wide…