We continue our look at each of the Pac-12’s opponents during the bowl season.
Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl
Las Vegas, Dec. 21, 12:30 PT, ABC
USC (9-4) vs. Fresno State (11-1)
Coach: Tim DeRuyter (second year)
Record: 11-1, 7-1 Mountain West
Combined opponents’ record: 62-83 (.427)
Common opponents: Utah State. Fresno State beat Utah State 24-17 on Dec. 7, USC beat Utah State 17-14 on Sept. 21 (the final USC victory for Lane Kiffin). Fresno State was scheduled to play Colorado, but the game was canceled due to flooding in Boulder.
Leading passer: Derek Carr, 424-605 (70.1 percent) for 4,866 yards with 48 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
Leading rusher: Josh Quezada, 153-787 (5.1 per carry), six touchdowns.
Leading receiver: Davante Adams, 122-1,645, 23 touchdowns.
Leading tackler: Karl Mickelsen, 88.
What to know: By now we all know that Fresno State was one bad defensive performance away from probably being a BCS buster. It was the San Jose State Spartans who did the busting when they knocked off the Bulldogs 62-52 last month.
Whenever a job is open in an AQ conference, DeRuyter’s name gets thrown out there. USC, meanwhile, has undergone a bit of a coaching change, if you hadn’t heard.
There wasn’t a lot of quality competition on Fresno State’s schedule, which is one of the reasons it never cracked the top 15. In fact, its only game against a team from an AQ conference was a 52-51 overtime win over Rutgers in the season opener. Then the Bulldogs played FCS Cal Poly and their game against Colorado was canceled.
A victory legitimizes everything they have done this year. A victory for USC means wounds are starting to heal.
Key matchup: Carr’s passing numbers are insane. And while we can argue the quality of the defenses he faced, he still has to throw it and someone still has to catch it. This sets up an intriguing showdown between Carr, his receivers and USC’s pass defense, which was No. 1 in the Pac-12 and holds opponents to 214.5 yards per game and quarterbacks to a 57.3 completion percentage. The Trojans have yielded only 18 touchdowns through the air and tied for second in the conference with 16 interceptions.