Holiday Bowl – USC Trojans (-3) versus Wisconsin Badgers

Posted: January 11, 2016 in College football, Football
Tags: , , , ,

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These schools have met six times previously, with USC winning all of them, but the last meeting was in 1966! This is the fourth straight bowl game for the Trojans and they played in this exact bowl last year, beating Nebraska 45-42 (-7). In their previous three non New Years Day bowl games, USC is 2-1 SU/ATS. Head coach Clay Helton is 1-0 SU/ATS in bowls (interim in 2013). Wisconsin is bowling for the 14th straight season. They beat Auburn 34-31 (+6.5) in last years Outback Bowl, and are 4-2 SU/3-3 ATS in non New Years Day bowl games since 1996. Head coach Paul Chryst was 1-1 SU/ATS in bowls while the head coach at Pittsburgh. 

Despite just returning 11 starters with a new head coach, Wisconsin was expected to win the Big Ten West division. Corey Clement was expected to replace Melvin Gordon, but he’s been banged up. They went 3-1 in the non-conference portion of their schedule with an expected loss to Alabama, then lost their first conference game to eventual West division champion Iowa. The Badgers then won five straight, but were upset at home against Northwestern as a double-digit favorite. They finished the season with a win over Minnesota. Wisconsin held six of their opponents to either their lowest or second lowest yards total and are No. 6 in the FBS allowing 114 yards per game less then their foes average. They have a top notch defense, being superior both against the pass and the run.

USC looked like a National Title contender when the season began as their sanctions ended. At 2-0, they hosted eventual Pac-12 champion Stanford as nearly a double-digit favorite, but lost by 10. After a loss to Washington, head coach Steve Sarkisian was let go for personal reasons and defensive coordinator Clay Helton took over. They then lost to Notre Dame, but after beating Utah, controlled their fate in the South division. The Trojans went 4-1 down the stretch, losing only to Oregon as a ‘dog. USC again lost to Stanford in the Pac-12 Championship game. Helton was hired as the permanent head coach, but has let go of five defensive assistants since the end of the regular season.

Wisconsin enters this game plus 110 yards per game and outgained Iowa by 99 yards in their home loss. USC played against 11 bowl teams and were plus 48 yards per game, while the Badgers played just five bowl teams. While Wisconsin does have the defensive edge, USC has an abundance of skill players on offense and it will be interesting to see what side comes out on top.

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