National Funding Holiday Bowl
7:30 pm PST
The (8-5) USC Trojans have arrived, 120 miles south of Los Angeles returning to San Diego, CA to play the (9-3) 23rd ranked Wisconsin Badgers in the 38th annual National Funding Holiday Bowl at Qualcomm Stadium. As a matter of fact, this contest is definitely not the desired Rose Bowl, although it does provide the traditional Pac 12 versus the Big Ten matchup for the second year in a row. This meeting is the first Holiday Bowl for the Badgers. The Pac 12 South Champion Trojans have won all six meetings with the Badgers, including a 38-3 home win for USC in 1966. This contest will be the Badgers’ 14th consecutive bowl appearance, the Big Ten’s longest active streak.
USC and Wisconsin twice played in the post season with Trojans victories in the 1953 & 1963 Rose Bowls (by 7-0 & 42-37 scores). The most memorable battle between the two combatants; the 1963 Rose Bowl, the #2 ranked Badgers nearly came all the way back from a 42-17 deficit behind Quarterback Ron Vander Kelen’s legendary MVP performance before falling to #1 ranked USC, Coach John McKay’s first National championship team. In the finale of the 2014 season, 55,789 fans witnessed a game that featured 1,040 yards of combined offense in addition to the final outcome, USC beat Nebraska 45-42 in the Holiday Bowl.
The USC Trojans, one of the nation’s premier bowl teams, with an overall post-season record of 33-16. The Cardinal and Gold have lost just twice in its past 11 bowl games. The USC Trojans have played 15 true freshmen this season, six have started games. In the first place, 2015 was a tumultuous year for the Trojans; 8-5 overall, 6-3 in Pac 12 play winning five of their last eight games since the administration named Clay Helton the interim Head Coach on October 12th after the dismissal of former Head Coach Steve Sarkisian ( then later the permanent Head Coach) finishing as the Pac 12 South Champions and playing for the conference Championship.
The outcome of the 38th annual National Funding Holiday Bowl comes down to the Trojans 31st ranked offense, averaging 35 points per game, scoring against a Badgers defense ranked first nationally in scoring defense (13.1 points per game), second in pass efficiency defense (95.12), third in total defense (267.1), fourth in rushing defense (97.9) and sixth in passing defense (169.2). Equally important and raising the level of difficulty, the month of October was not kind to USC as the program lost senior center/guard Max Tuerk and guard Viane Talamaivo to season ending injuries. With this in mind, these Trojans offensive line from left to right, left tackle Zach Banner, left guard Damien Mama, center Khaliel Rodgers, right guard Chris Brown and right tackle Chuma Edoga. In order for offensive success for USC, these Trojans must control the line of scrimmage and move the crowd.
The Trojans need to know exactly where Badgers outside linebacker Joe Schobert is at all times, Schobert the Big Ten’s linebacker of the year, tied for seventh nationally posting 18.5 tackles for loss, nine and a half sacks and a school record five forced fumbles in 2015.
Points per game 34.9 27.1
Points Allowed 25.9 13.1
Total Yards 449.6 377.3
Yards Passing 273.5 229.3
Yards Rushing 176.2 148.1
Yards Allowed 401.3 267.1
Passing Yards Allowed 254.2 169.2
Rushing Yards Allowed 147.2 97.9
The Trojans are 3-2 in their last five games, scoring on average 31 points and allowing 32.8 points.In their last five games, the Badgers are 4-1, scoring on average 28 points per game and allowing 16.2 points per game. As a matter of fact, USC has faced three ranked opponents (#23 Oregon, #22 UCLA and #7 Stanford) in their last five games in contrast the Badgers have faced only one ranked opponent (#20 Northwestern). Trojan quarterback Cody Kessler, a Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award and Senior Class Award finalist, is in USC’s all-time Top 4 in TD passes, completions, passing yards and total offense (surpassing Matt Lienart’s school career records for completion percentage & interception rate).
In 2015 Kessler completed 280 of 414 passes for 3,315 yards, 28 TD passes and six interceptions. Kessler leads an offense that is averaging 450 total yards and 35 points per game. USC wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, Kessler’s main target, is in the Top 15 Nationally in receiving yards and receiving TD’s (85 receptions for 1,389 yards and 10 TD’s). The Trojans rushing attack; a combination of Junior Tailback Justin Smith (157 carries for 875 yards, 5 TD’s, averaging 5.6 yards per carry) and Freshman All-American candidate Tailback Ronald Jones (145 carries for 940 yards, 8 TD’s, averaging 6.5 yards per carry), both players have a shot at a 1,000 yard rushing year.
Ronald Jones also holds the USC freshman season rushing record; formerly held by Heisman Trophy winner Charles White, as well as being among in addition to the contribution of senior Tailback Tre Madden (85 carries for 452 yards, 5 TD’s, averaging 5.3 yards per carry). USC’s defense led by outside linebacker/ strong safety Su’A Cravens (In 3 years Cravens posted – 199 career tackles, including 166 solo stops, 34 tackles for loss, 10.5 sacks, nine interceptions for 133 yards, a 14.8 yard interception return average) has had their issues; however the Trojans defense has won the turnover battle (+0.9), had 14 takeaways, 5 defensive scores and ranks 15th in the nation in sacks (USC has 27 under Helton).
Under first year Head Coach Paul Chryst, Wisconsin features a top defense led by OLB Joe Schobert, an offense with senior QB Joel Stave (in 2015; 207 completions on 343 attempts for 2,470 yards, 10 TD’s and 11 interceptions) at the controls, who has led the Badgers to a school record-tying 30 wins. Stave is second in Wisconsin history in career passing yards, touchdowns, completions and attempts. Wisconsin’s top receiving threat and Stave’s main target, WR Alex Erickson an All Big Ten performer (72 receptions for 924 yards and 3 TD’s), leading rusher Dare Ogunbowale (181 carries for 769 yards and 7 TD’s).the senior has that has effectively moved the ball and a team that has lost three close games. This is a compelling post season matchup, competitive throughout destined to go down to the wire for a thrilling finish with two quarterbacks playing their college football finale’s.
Prediction: USC 27 Wisconsin 21