The key for USC, and Helton, is to make sure it doesn't put itself in too big a hole so that one possession won't bail the Trojans out at the end of a game.
The Longhorns ride high following last week's 56-0 rout of San Jose State as 26.5-point chalk, but have been dismal performers on the road, going 2-8 SU and ATS in 10 contests since the start of last season.
But the Trojans answered.
But Texas outscored the Cowboys 35-0 in the 2nd half and won the game running away, with Vince Young creating a highlight reel play along the way in which he pump faked a defender out of his shoes before scoring a long touchdown.
In the teams' first meeting since dueling for the national championship 12 seasons ago in a Rose Bowl classic, considered one of the greatest games in college football history, the rematch came down to the final moments on Saturday night and to the leg of a freshman walk-on.
The journey to get there proved to be full of surprising twists.
Despite the late flair, it was often sloppy for USC's offense, which twice saw Darnold intercepted and three times was stopped on fourth down. That's one Texas would regret.
But despite a top-five ranking and home-field advantage, USC got all they could handle from the visiting Longhorns, needing a last-minute drive from quarterback Sam Darnold to force overtime.
USC QB Sam Darnold threw a touchdown pass to Deontay Burnett with 2:40 left in the first half. Darnold has thrown two interceptions in four of his last six games. The only time they technically switched was going into the Longhorns' game against the Oklahoma State Cowboys on October 29. The "Texas Tesla" already has 275 yards and five touchdowns on the ground in two games, showcasing his improved physicality along with his usual speed. He completed a 17-yard pass to Lil'Jordan Humphrey. His two interceptions raised his interception total to six through three games. He hit Collin Johnson for 47 yards. Defensively, USC is allowing 27.5 points and 349.5 yards per game. Two plays later Darnold found Mitchell for a 20 yard gain, however on fourth and three the Trojans came up short and turned the ball over once again.
USC failed to get into the endzone, but a 43-yard field goal was all the Trojans needed to escape the Longhorns, who now sit at 1-2 on the season.
Both teams have concerns about their placekicking, which is something to keep in mind in a close game. He'll have a lot to learn but he certainly made a compelling case to be the starter moving forward depending on the health of Shane Buechele.
"There are no moral victories in college football", first-year UT coach Tom Herman told reporters after the 27-24 loss, which lasted four hours.
But more importantly, this game did a lot to strengthen the narrative that USC (3-0) is back and here to stay among the nation's elite; even more than USC being ranked in the preseason top-5 and a bunch of media types just telling us that the Trojans are back.
USC can breathe a sigh of relief, its playoff hopes suffering little or no damage.
The best news of the night? In Beau Baldwin, the Golden Bears have an offensive coordinator with a proven track record of attacking Pac-12 teams, from his time at FCS powerhouse Eastern Washington.