Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl Preview

Posted: December 20, 2013 in NCAAF
Tags: , , , , , , ,

By Jesse Granger

Fresno State Bulldogs (11-1) vs. Southern California Trojans (9-4)

Where: Sam Boyd Stadium (capacity 36,800)

When: Saturday, Dec. 21, 12:30 pm PT


Why to watch

Las Vegas is always awarded with a quality matchup in the annual Vegas Bowl, but this year brings two powerhouse programs with star-studded lineups. The 20 combined wins by USC and Fresno State are only second amongst non-BCS bowls to the Cotton Bowl. This year’s bowl game also pits two teams from the same region against each other. The two campuses are only four hours from each other, so recruiting battles could be only the line when the Bulldogs and Trojans take the field Saturday afternoon.!cid__2_11C6C1EC11C65F38002293FA88257C40

For those who watch for elite caliber athletes, there will be plenty of NFL talent on display. USC is always stacked with a roster full of future-NFL players, and this year is no different. The Trojans pro-prospects are led by junior wide receiver Marqise Lee, who ESPN draft expert Todd McShay is projecting as the No. 1 receiver in next year’s draft. For once, USC doesn’t have the biggest star on the field. Fresno State signal caller Derek Carr has wowed scouts all year with mind-boggling numbers and, according to McShay, could be drafted in the top-10.

Then there’s always the Hollywood drama surrounding the Trojans. USC has found itself in quite a scenario, under the third head coach just this season. After firing Lane Kiffin on Sept. 28, Ed Orgeron did a great job as the interim. But upon the hiring of Steve Sarkisian, Orgeron abruptly resigned. Sarkisian will obviously not coach the team on Saturday with the ink still wet on his brand new contract, so offensive coordinator Clay Helton will lead the Trojans against Fresno State.

Fresno State Keys

The Bulldogs threw the ball all over the gridiron this year at a record breaking pace. Carr threw so many passes the team may have needed to consider a pitch-count. The senior quarterback threw a Mountain West record 605 passes for 4,866 yards. That broke Carr’s own record for passing, by more than 700 yards. Carr also broke Kellen Moore’s Mountain West record for touchdown passes in a season with 48 touchdown tosses. Carr’s number one target, Davante Adams, caught 122 passes for 1,645 yards. Adams led the nation with 23 touchdown grabs, which was eight more than the second best. Fresno State moved the ball on opponents at will, racking up 572.4 yards per game, but the Bulldog’s third ranked offense will face the most talented defense of the year in USC. But the Mountain West has owned the Vegas Bowl recently, winning the last four, and six of the past seven. Will Fresno State’s unstoppable aerial assault be grounded against the Trojans talented secondary, or will it finish its record breaking year with a bang?

USC Keys

After USC’s 62-41 loss to Arizona State, the season seemed lost. But the Trojans rallied, and won five straight before falling to cross-town rival UCLA to end the year. Even with the lack of stability around the program, the defense remains one of the best in the nation. Led by linebacker Hayes Pullard, the Trojans finished 16th in the nation in total defense; that’s a feat even more impressive in the offensively stacked Pac 12. USC will look to shut down Carr and Adams, with the Pac 12’s first ranked pass defense. The Trojans allow only 214.5 yards per game through the air, close to half of Fresno State’s average. In today’s college football, stopping elite passing attacks is nearly impossible. But the Trojans will gladly surrender yards between the 20’s if they can hold the Bulldogs to field goals. USC’s red-zone defense is 3rd in the nation, only allowing 26 scores in 41 red-zone opportunities for their opponents. As good as Fresno State’s offense was, it did struggle in the red-zone, ranking 48th in the country. If USC’s seventh ranked red-zone offense can punch the ball in the end zone while holding Fresno to field goals, USC could run away with the game.

Final Note

Despite the announcement by Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl Executive Director Dan Hanneeke that the game is sold out, there are still a small amount of tickets available.

According to the Fresno State Athletics site the ticket offices are closed, but tickets can be purchased for $55 at the Hard Rock Hotel on Friday Dec. 20 from 10 am to 4 pm.


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