USC Trojans Football Game Preview: Las Vegas Bowl


Oct 10, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans tailback Javorius Allen (37) carries the ball against the Arizona Wildcats at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. USC defeated Arizona 38-31. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports


#25 USC Trojans (9-4) vs. #20 Fresno State Bulldogs (11-1)

SITE:  Sam Boyd Stadium, Las Vegas, NV

DATE & TIME:  Saturday, December 21, 2013, 12:30 p.m PT.

TV:  KABC Channel 7 (in the SoCal area)

LINE:  USC by six and a half

ALL-TIME SERIES:  Tied, 1-1;

Fresno State beat USC 24-7 in the 1992 Freedom Bowl, while USC beat Fresno State 50-42 in 2005

Let’s be honest, folks.

No one really knows which USC team will show up in Las Vegas’ Sam Boyd Stadium this coming Saturday.

Will it be…

a.  The Trojan team that had such a brilliant resurgence under interim coach Ed Orgeron, winning straight and six out of seven games – including that huge 20-17 triumph over then-4th ranked Stanford –  after the firing of Lane Kiffin.


b.  The Trojan team that was beaten so decisively in their Crosstown Rivalry grudge match against UCLA by a 35-14 score – and in the friendly confines of the Coliseum, no less – which ultimately cost Orgeron the permanent head coaching job. leading him to resign and sending many of the players, who loved him, into an emotional tailspin.

This is a milestone event on the Trojans’ post-season history as this Las Vegas Bowl will mark USC’s 50th bowl game, which includes 33 Rose Bowls, more than any other school.

For the record, Southern Cal has won 24 of those 33 “Grandaddy Of Them Alls”, and sports an overall bowl mark of 32-17.

Sep 14, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans mascot Tommy Trojan performs with the Spirit of Troy marching band during the game against the Boston College Eagles at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. USC defeated Boston College 35-7. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

But that will mean absolutely nothing on Saturday as new one-game interim coach Clay Helton will oversee a Trojan team that will try and salvage what has been quite an eventful season as they go for their tenth win.

Steve Sarkisian, who was hired as the permanent head man and will officially take over after the Las Vegas Bowl, will be watching the game but not interfere as he gets an impression of what he will have to work with in 2014 and beyond.

As for the opponent, USC will be facing a program that, at least on the west coast, teams are reluctant to face because of their scrappy, will-take-anyone-anywhere-anytime attitude:

Fresno State’s Bulldogs from California’s Central Valley, complete with their rabid “Red Wave” fan base that will be expected to match the numbers and intensity that the “Trojan Family” will bring coming up I-15 to Sin City.

Winning the Mountain West Conference with an 11-1 record, these Bulldogs would have undoubtedly earned a spot in a BCS game if it were not for the fact that their defense couldn’t stop a mediocre San Jose State team, giving up – get this – 62 POINTS in losing to the Spartans in their regular season finale on November 29.

Second year coach Tim DeRuyter has one overwhelming reason why his team won 11 games: Derek Carr, the nation’s leading passer.

All the fifth-year senior has done is throw for an FBS-leading 4,866 yards and 48 touchdowns, completing an outstanding 70.1% of his passes in the process as his numbers are the envy of every quarterback in the NFL save for perhaps Peyton Manning.

It’s completely beyond me why Carr wasn’t invited to New York as a Heisman Trophy finalist – I reckon it was the San Jose State loss that turned off the voters – and if he is not among the first round picks in the 2014 NFL draft this coming April, then nothing makes sense in the world.

Devonte Adams, with his team-leading 122 catches, 1,645 yards, and 23 touchdowns, Josh Harper  (79 catches, 1,011 yards and 13 touchdowns), and Isaiah Burke (94 catches) are the wide receivers that have most benefitted from Carr’s deadly arm.

To say that Dion Bailey, Josh Shaw and the rest of the USC secondary will have their hands full would be an extreme understatement.

The Trojans’ best chance at stopping Fresno State’s potent attack will be if their front seven, particularly linebacker Devon Kennard, who leads ‘SC with nine sacks, and defensive end Leonard Williams, who was voted as a first-team All American by, get into the backfield and cause much havoc, giving Carr no time to throw.

If they can do that, USC will have a good chance to win. If they don’t, it may well be a long day.

It’s as simple as that.

It’s a certainly that the Trojans’ offense is encouraged by the lack of defense that the Bulldogs showed against San Jose State; I’m sure that they spent much time looking at those tapes.

I think that even Cody Kessler knows that his ability doesn’t even approach Carr’s behind center, as his numbers (2,623 yards passing with 16 touchdowns) are a mere fraction of the Fresno State quarterback’s.

But I’m also certain that Kessler will try to take advantage of a Bulldog defense that has only two guys of real note, linebacker Ejiro Ederaine, whose ten sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss far outdistances anyone else on that unit, and safety Derron Smith, who leads the team with six interceptions.

Receiversr Nelson Agholor and Marqise Lee will be looking to have big days on Saturday, as will a host of ‘SC running backs, led by team MVP Javorius “Buck” Allen, whose 6.5 yards per carry and 12 rushing touchdowns are the stats that jump out at you.

And he’s not even the Trojans’ leading rusher as Tre Madden holds that distinction by four yards, 703 to 699 for Allen.

As was said, no one really knows which USC team will show up in Vegas.

It will all depend on the motivation factor…

Oct 10, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; General view of Southern California Trojans players entering the field from the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum tunnel before the game against the Arizona Wildcats. USC defeated Arizona 38-31. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

If these Trojans can overcome the loss of a beloved coach who they desperately wanted to have the “interim” label removed from his job description and focus on the task at hand, they’ll probably win the game as they are the first team from a BCS conference that Fresno State will see this season.

On the other hand, if these Trojans adopt the attitude that they showed at the Sun Bowl last year, clearly behaving like they didn’t want to be there and losing 21-7 to a below-.500 Georgia Tech team, they will be in real trouble as there will be nothing more thrilling to Fresno State and their Red Wave Nation than to knock off big, bad USC.

Which Trojan team will show up?

We’ll soon find out.