The Pac-12 perennial powerhouse USC Trojans will be taking on the Fresno State Bulldogs and their star quarterback Derek Carr Saturday December 21st at the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl. This Saturday is the first day of bowl week and it’s not too late for you to submit your picks on the Yahoo Pick em Challenge or spend the holidays in Las Vegas for a little sports booking.
Here’s TC Arizona Sports bowl prognosticator Jon Hotz and his take on the Vegas Bowl and who you should pick.
Fresno State had hopes of being a BCS buster before falling to San Jose State, a game where both offenses exploded in a 62-52 shootout. USC had a rocky beginning to their season starting the year off 4-3 with tough losses to Washington St. and Notre Dame. They rebounded rattling off 5 wins in a row within the Pac-12 conference before falling to in state rival #17 UCLA 35-14.
The USC defense will be tested this weekend. Especially second team All-Pac-12 safety Dion Bailey and the rest of the Trojan secondary; tasked with defending Carr and his explosive weapons on the outside. USC will rely on a strong defensive line, lead by sophomore Leonard Williams, to put pressure on the exemplary quarterback. Carr has thrown for 4,866 yards and 48 touchdowns this season with only a mere 7 interceptions to his name.
Fresno St. also has three NFL caliber wide receivers catching passes from the Mountain West Offensive Player of the Year. Davante Adams has had an outstanding season, catching 122 passes for 1,625 yards and 23 touchdowns. Josh Harper is also over 1,000 yards and has hauled in 13 touchdown passes. Isaiah Burse is no slouch either, he has 94 receptions totaling 987 yards and 5 touchdowns.
That being said the Bulldogs are 6.5 point underdogs for obvious reasons. One of those reasons being the fact the Trojans have 5 players who are either first or second team All-Pac-12. Center Marcus Martin was the only player who was honored that plays on the offensive side of the ball. Defensive ends Willliams and Devon Kennard, linebacker Hayes Pullard, and safety Bailey were all honored for their eye-opening seasons on defense.
USC also possesses a powerful running game with the two-headed monster of Javorious Allen and Tre Madden. Allen and Madden have combined for 1,453 yards and 15 touchdowns while rushing for a robust 5.9 yards per carry. They will be without former Penn State running back Silas Redd who has been confirmed as out for the final game of his collegiate career.
Fresno St. has been pretty stout against the run so far this season, holding opponents to an impressive 3.7 yards per attempt. That being said they haven’t seen a running back duo or offensive line that match up comparably with the Pac-12 Trojans. The Bulldogs’ defense has three players who were either first or second team All-Mountain West including standout safety Derron Smith. Smith was named first team All-Mountain West for the second time this season.
This may be a high scoring affair with both teams going up and down the field. The over/under is set at 62 points, but we may see far more than that. USC wants to get their running game going because that sets up quarterback Cody Kessler for success with play-action sequences. If Carr and his trio of wide receivers get into a rhythm there may be no stopping them.
I predict an exciting upset win for Fresno State in thrilling fashion. Fans of both teams should be excited for this game as it may be one for the ages.
You can catch Hotz’s MLB takes on our sister site TC Miami Sports (tcmiamisports.wordpress.com)