This is a solid match up on the first day one of four games to kick off the 2013 Bowl Season. The number one ranked team from the Mountain West Conference against the fifth ranked team from the Pac 12. After a season filled with overcoming adversary, unsettled at the quarterback position, inefficient offense, a parking lot firing of Lane Kiffin, Ed Orgeron picking up the pieces and turning USC into ‘one team, one heartbeat' the Trojans could pull off the rare feat of ending the 2013 campaign with 10-wins under three Head Coaches.
USC played with renewed spirit and fight after the coaching change winning six of its first seven under former USC assistant coach Ed Orgeron. Offensive Coordinator Clay Helton will guide the Trojans against the Bulldogs. Helton has to motivate a group of players highly disappointed the coach o was not named the Head Coach. After a fight in the locker room and USC's lackluster performance in a loss in last years Sun Bowl, do the Trojans want to play in this game?
How excited are the USC Trojans to face the Fresno State Bulldogs? Both valid questions. Regardless of what the statistics will prove several times bowl games come down to one things Are teams that had aspirations of playing in a BCS-bowl game motivated to show up and play hard in non-BCS bowl game? USC took a while to get on track offensively ranking 79th in the nation in total offense (392.3 yards per game) posting 5, 100 yards on 849 plays and 28.5 points per game.
After settling on Cody Kessler at quarterback, USC ranked 66th in the nation in passing with 2, 835 yards. Throughout the year Kessler improved with each game and closed the season with a 10-to-2 TD –to- Interception ratio. The Trojans ranked 44th in the nation in rushing and ran the ball for 2, 265 yards. Outside of the Arizona State debacle, defensively the Trojans allowed just 319 yards per game and 18 points per game. The USC Trojans ranked 21st in the nation in points against allowing 21.3 points per game.
The Trojans defense ranks 16th in the country giving up 341 yards per game and first in the Pac 12 with an average of 214.5 passing yards allowed. The Fresno State Bulldogs had high expectations for 2013 and more than lived up to the hype posting an 11-1 record and winning the Mountain West Conference championship over a Utah State team playing without their best offensive player QB Chuckie Keeton.
Scoring is what the Fresno State Bulldogs do best.http://www.cfbstats.com
The Bulldogs led by future NFL draft pick QB Derek Carr ranks third in the nation in total offense (570.6 yards per game, behind Baylor and Oregon) amassing 6, 847 yards on 1, 027 plays and 45.3 points per game. The Bulldogs have the number one ranked passing game in college football passing for 4, 917 yards. Fresno State has the 72nd ranked running game in college football rushing for 1, 930 yards on the season. The Bulldogs rarely turn the ball over (just 8.5-percent of their drives ended in turnovers) and put together long (6.39 plays of 40.7 yards), highly productive (3.01 points per drive with a 40.4-percent TD rate) scoring drives.
The Fresno State Bulldogs biggest issue is that their defense cannot stop anyone! Fresno State ranked 81st in the nation in points against allowing 29.1 points. The Bulldogs have surrendered a total of 5, 101 yards this season on average allowing 425 yards passing and 147 yards passing. In their one loss the Bulldogs gave up 736 yards to San Jose State.
Defensively USC has to shut down the Fresno State rushing game and slow down the Bulldog passing game led by senior quarterback Derek Carr. The receiving corps Davante Adams, Josh Harper and Isaiah Burse has been impressive. Carr has thrown for at least 400 yards eight times this season. Davante Adams has (leads the nation) 122 receptions and 23 touchdowns while ranking second with 1, 645 yards. Harper has caught 79 passes for 1, 011 yards and 13 TD's. Bruce has caught 94 passes for 987 yards and five scores.
This is an intriguing match up, due to USC's strength being their defense and the Bulldogs have clearly posted outstanding passing numbers. The Trojans are not underestimating the Bulldogs and realize that their facing the type of offense that has previously given them trouble. USC, excited about the challenge of facing one of the best offenses in college football. The Trojans, excited about executing their offense against a defense allowing on average 425 yards passing and 147 yards rushing. Look for USC to control the game and the clock with a run-heavy attack opening up play action passing opportunities. Kessler will get his chance to feature Marquise Lee & Nelson Agholor and attack the Bulldog secondary in the passing game.
Prediction: USC 36 – Fresno State 30
Jeff Little is the host of "The Locker Room" a daily sports talk radio show based out of Los Angeles 6-8 pm PST www.sportsjourney.com Follow on twitter @JeffLittle32, Facebook, Pinterest, Google+