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O/NSO: National Funding Holiday Bowl – USC/UW edition

By Greg Katz – WeAreSC.com

The Obvious: Hoping to make it one final victory celebration for 2015, the USC Trojans (8-5) return to San Diego’s National Funding Holiday Bowl for a second consecutive season and look to defeat another Big Ten team in the No. 23 Wisconsin Badgers (9-3) at Qualcomm Stadium on Wednesday night (7:30 p.m. PT/ESPN).

The Not So Obvious: The Trojans and Wisconsin will always be attached at the hip courtesy of their wild and crazy 1963 Rose Bowl classic in which the Men of Troy withstood a furious Badgers comeback to preserve a 41-37 victory. The battle between the No. 1 Trojans and the No. 2 Badgers is remembered by college football as one of the greatest Rose Bowls ever.

The Obvious: The Trojans opened a 3 ½ -point favorite to defeat Wisconsin.

The Not So Obvious: The two teams representing different regions of the country have met just six times, but the Cardinal and Gold hold a 6-0 advantage. The last time the two programs met was 1966 in a game the Trojans won 38-3 in front of 52,325 in the Coliseum.

The Obvious: The National Funding Holiday Bowl will be televised on ESPN (7:30 p.m. PT/10:30 p.m. ET).

The Not So Obvious: The National Funding Holiday Bowl broadcasters for Saturday night’s kickoff will be Adam Amin (play-by-play), Kelly Stouffer (analysis), and Olivia Harlan (sidelines).

The Obvious: Wednesday’s Trojans radio broadcast of the National Funding Holiday Bowl will air live on ESPNLA 710 AM at 7:30 p.m. PT with Pete Arbogast (play by play), John Jackson (analyst) and Jordan Moore (sideline).

The Trojans four-hour ESPNLA 710 pregame show on Wednesday begins at 3:30 p.m. PT and will feature Arbogast, Jackson, Moore, WeAreSC.com publisher Garry Paskwietz, Steve Mason, Harvey Hyde, Katie Boggs, and Shaun Cody. There will be a two-hour post-game show following the conclusion of the game with Chris Fisher and Shaun Cody.

The Not So Obvious: The Wisconsin broadcast can be heard on flagship station WIBA 1310 AM with Mike Lepay (play-by-play), Mike Lucas (analyst), and Scott Nelson (sideline).

A national broadcast on ESPN radio can be heard on ESPN radio with Drew Goodman (play-by-play), Tom Ramsey (analyst), and Marty Cesario (sidelines). The game is also being broadcast on Sirius XM satellite radio (Channel 80).

The Obvious: The San Diego weather report for Wednesday calls for sunny with a high of 62 and a low of 42 degrees.

The Not So Obvious: The real weather report will be whether the Trojans speed and skill players like WRS Adoree’ Jackson, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Steven Mitchell, and TB Ronald Jones ll can offset a sturdy and stingy Wisconsin defense, one of the nation’s best. A huge question mark will whether the – once again- reconfigured Trojans offensive will be effective with the absence of starting left tackle Chad Wheeler due to personal issues. Another “X factor” will be whether Trojans quarterback Cody Kessler can have one last hurrah in his final outing against a formidable Big Ten opponent, and Kessler will be challenged by a Badgers secondary, one of the Big Ten’s most experienced units.

A major question mark will be whether the Trojans defense can withstand Wisconsin’s power rushing attack, which will go a long way in deciding the game’s outcome. It’s ironic that the Badgers highly touted defensive coordinator Dave Aranda has been mentioned prominently as the potentially the next USC defensive coordinator. The Badgers lead the nation in scoring defense (13.1) and have an outstanding OLB linebacker in senior All-American first teamer Joe Schobert, the 2015 Big Ten Linebacker of the Year. Assisting Schobert is redshirt junior outside linebacker Vince Biegel, a player that a number of Trojans made mention.

In terms of coaching, it remains to be seen whether the reconfigured Trojans coaching staff – due to the firing of four assistants right after the Pac-12 title loss to Stanford – plays an important factor in communications during Wednesday night’s game.

The Badgers offense is run-run-run to set up the pass. We’ll see whether Trojans interim defensive coordinator Peter Sirmon can come up with a plan to stuff the Badgers rushing efforts without getting burned through the air by Wisconsin’s 6-5 quarterback Joel Stave. Junior RB Dare Ogunbowale (181 tcb, 769 yds, 4.2 avg, 7 TD in 2015, plus 34 rec, 278 yds, 8.2 avg, 1 TD) is the Badgers’ top ground gainer. We’ll see whether the Trojans defensive line can withstand the Badgers physical, ball control attack through four quarters. Trojans senior CB Kevon Seymour (ankle) is not expected to play, and if he doesn’t, we’ll find out whether that has an effect on the Wisconsin passing game.

The bottom line to the game is whether the strength of the Trojans, Clay Helton’s offense, controls the strength of the Badgers, its defense. Conversely, it will also be intriguing to find out whether the perceived weakness of the Trojans, its defense, can withstand the perceived weakness – the Badgers offense.

The Obvious: The Trojans first year head coach is Clay Helton whose father, Kim, is a former head coach at the University of Houston.

The Not So Obvious: Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst is the son of the late George Chryst, who was the head football coach at the University of Wisconsin–Platteville.

The Obvious: Paul Chryst is Wisconsin’s first-year head coach.

The Not So Obvious: Chryst, a Madison, Wisconsin native, was quarterback for the Badgers from 1986 to ’88 and served as the Badgers’ tight ends coach in 2002 and oversaw the offense from 2005 to 2011.

The Obvious: Through 13 games, the Trojans offense is averaging 34.9 points per game while the Wisconsin defense is allowing 13.1 points per outing.

The Not So Obvious: Through 12 games, the Wisconsin offense is averaging 27.1 points per game while the Trojans defense is allowing 25.9 points per game.

The Obvious: The Trojans quarterback is fifth-year senior Cody Kessler, who will be playing his final game as the USC signal caller.

The Not So Obvious: Some say this will Kessler’s legacy game and depending on your prospective, that may or may not be true. However, it would be safe to say that a victory will frame his career in a more positive light than a loss, which may or may not be fair.

The Obvious: Wednesday’s National Funding Holiday Bowl will be the second time that the Trojans have played a football game on Dec. 30.

The Not So Obvious: The previous Dec. 30 game was back in the 1993 Freedom Bowl, a 28-21 win over Utah.

The Obvious: Wisconsin’s quarterback is Joel Stave, a redshirt senior from Greenfield, Wisconsin, is a civil engineering major.

The Not So Obvious: Stave has thrown of 10 touchdowns and averages 205.83 yards per game in the air. He has thrown 11 interceptions, which bodes well for the Trojans secondary.

The Obvious: The heralded Trojans 2015 freshmen class has played a prominent role this season and could make an impact in Wednesday night’s National Funding Holiday Bowl.

The Not So Obvious: Six of those talented Trojans freshmen have scored touchdowns during the 2015 season (TBs Ronald Jones ll and Aca’Cedric Ware, ILBs Cameron Smith and Osa Masina, TE Tyler Petite, and DE Rasheem Green.

The Obvious: The Trojans have no recruits on its roster from the state of Wisconsin.

The Not So Obvious: Wisconsin has six players from California. They include QB Bart Houston (Dublin), inside linebacker Leon Jacobs (Santa Clarita Golden Valley), kicker Andrew Endicott (Sacramento Jesuit), tight end Kyle Penniston (Santa Ana Mater Dei), nose tackle Olive Benzschawel (Santa Ana Mater Dei), and offensive lineman Kevin Estes (San Marcos).

The Obvious: Since 1929, the Trojans have played in the Rose Bowl during the term of every president but one.

The Not So Obvious: If you said that the one U.S. President that didn’t see the Trojans go to the Rose Bowl is Barack Obama, you’d be correct.

The Obvious: The Holiday Bowl will again have an impressive pregame show before kickoff.

The Not So Obvious: The Pregame Show, presented by Wells Fargo, features performances by both university’s marching bands, spectacular pageantry, Navy LeapFrog parachute jumpers, and, of course, and The Big Flag, which is a football field size American flag. If you want to see the pregame show, be sure to be in your seats 30 minutes prior to kickoff!

The Obvious: And finally, the Trojans will be playing its second of three consecutive games at a neutral site when it plays in Qualcomm Stadium on Wednesday night.

The Not So Obvious: The first and third neutral site? Well, the first was at Levi’s Stadium for the Pac-12 Championship Game, and the third site will be the 2016 season opener against Alabama at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, on Sept. 3.

Greg Katz

Now entering his 59th season of either writing, broadcasting, or just plain watching USC football, WeAreSC columnist Greg Katz began his affiliation with the website back in 2001, introducing his well-received O/NSO (The Obvious/The Not So Obvious) column and later adding his respected IMHO Sunday opinion and tidbits column. Greg, a former ESPN.com college football columnist covering USC, is also a member of the Football Writer's Association of America. He is also known in Southern California as a professional public address announcer, having called the the 1996 Rose Bowl Game between USC and Northwestern. Greg also holds a master's degree in athletic administration and was a former varsity high school coach of 27 years.

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