Previewing USC's bowl matchup with Wisconsin

It will be a matchup of two teams with similar offensive philosophies in the National Funding Holiday Bowl as the USC Trojans and Wisconsin Badgers get together for some old-fashioned running of the football.

Both teams have senior quarterbacks with a ton of school records under their belt but they are expected to look to control the game on the ground in what should be an entertaining contest between two teams with impressive bowl credentials; this will be the 50th bowl appearance for the Trojans (including wins in eight of the last nine) while the Badgers are playing in their 14th consecutive bowl game.

When Wisconsin has the ball

Badgers quarterback Joel Stave has done enough in his career to be ranked No. 2 in several school passing categories, and he is also tied for the school record in wins, but he also has more interceptions (11) than touchdowns (10) this year. When he does have success throwing the ball it is usually to Alex Erickson, an All-Big Ten selection who could end up leaving this game as the all-time reception leader in Wisconsin history. It will be interesting to see how the Trojans cover him with either Adoree' Jackson or Iman Marshall. Of course, these are still the Wisconsin Badgers so you know they will bring a typically large offensive line with all five starters listed at more than 300 pounds. It should be a competitive line of scrimmage battle against a vastly improved USC defensive line, led in the interior by Antwaun Woods and Delvon Simmons. The leading rusher for Wisconsin is Dare Ogunbowale, more of a pounding runner, while an explosive option is Corey Clement, although it remains to be seen how much he will be able to contribute coming back from a hernia injury.

When USC has the ball

The Trojans bring a record-setting quarterback of their own in Cody Kessler, one who was the MVP of the Holiday Bowl last year, but USC has become more reliant on the run game since Clay Helton took over as interim coach (now full-time coach). While Kessler threw 15 touchdowns in the first four USC games, he was limited to 13 in the next nine games. In that time, a two-headed tailback rotation was developed with Justin Davis and Ronald Jones. Davis averaged over 100 yards per game and six yards per carry over the final five games of the year, while Jones ended the season as the leading rusher on the team (940 yards) and set a USC freshman record in the process. The Trojans will be without left tackle Chad Wheeler for the bowl game, so All-Pac-12 right tackle Zach Banner will move to the left side, and true freshman Chuma Edoga will start at right tackle. The defense they will be facing has been one of the best in college football this year; ranked No. 1 in scoring, No. 3 in total defense, No. 4 in rush defense and No. 6 in pass defense. The Badgers are led by a trio of linebackers in Joe Schobert, T.J. Edwards and Vince Biegel. One big wild card could be USC receiver JuJu Smith, as Wisconsin simply hasn't faced a receiver like him this year.


Both coaches will be looking to use a victory in this bowl as a steppingstone for the future. Just as Helton is looking to establish himself as the recently hired head of the USC program, Paul Chryst is finishing up his first year in charge of the Badgers. Both are former quarterbacks who have families with deep ties to the sport (Helton's father is a former NFL and college coach, Chryst's brother is on the staff of the San Francisco 49ers) and both are now in charge of programs with strong traditions of running the ball, a tradition which should definitely continue in this game.