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USC vs Wisconsin in Holiday Bowl

from USC press release:

LOS ANGELES–The Pac-12 South Division champion USC football team will return to the Holiday Bowl and face No. 23 Wisconsin of the Big Ten on Dec. 30 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego.  The game will kick off at 7:30 p.m. PT on ESPN.

Information on tickets to the 38th annual Holiday Bowl will be sent out on Monday (Dec. 7) to Trojan Athletic Fund members and USC general season ticket holders.  Fans can plan their travel needs by going to sandiegobowlgames.com and clicking on the “Plan Your Trip” button.

Last year, USC defeated Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl, 45-42, before 55,789 fans in a game that featured 1,040 yards of combined total offense.  This will be Wisconsin’s first trip to the Holiday Bowl.

“We are thrilled to be able to go back to the Holiday Bowl and play an outstanding Big Ten team like Wisconsin.  All of us at USC had such a wonderful experience last year in San Diego and we thank the Holiday Bowl committee for inviting us back,” said USC head coach Clay Helton.  “We will bring a motivated Trojan team that is anxious to finish the 2015 season on a high note, and they especially want to do so for our seniors and our fans.  We know we’ll have a challenging opponent in Wisconsin, a team USC last played nearly 50 years ago.  The Badgers have an unbelievable defense, leading the nation in points allowed and ranking third in total defense, so we will have to be on our game.

“Last year, we had an overwhelming turnout of Trojan fans at the Holiday Bowl and they were a key factor in our victory, and we expect a similar turnout this year.  It’s a chance for our fans to spend the week after Christmas with us in the great city of San Diego, participate in all the fun activities the bowl puts on, and cap it off by watching their Trojans play in what should be a very exciting game.”

The Trojans have won all 6 meetings with the Badgers, but the teams last met in 1966 (a 38-3 home win for USC).  USC and Wisconsin twice have played in the post-season, with Trojan victories in the 1953 and 1963 Rose Bowls (by 7-0 and 42-37 scores, respectively).  The 1963 Rose Bowl is one of the most famous in history, as the Badgers nearly came back from a 42-17 fourth quarter deficit behind the passing of Ron VanderKelen before falling to coach John McKay’s first national championship squad.

The Trojans are among the nation’s premier bowl teams, with an overall post-season record of 33-16 (not including 1 win and 1 loss later vacated due to NCAA penalty).  USC has lost just twice in its past 11 bowl games.  Last year, USC defeated Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl, 45-42.

USC, 8-5 overall in 2015, has won 5 of its last 8 games since Helton was named interim head coach on Oct. 12 and then permanent head coach early last week.

Unitas and Senior CLASS Award finalist QB Cody Kessler, who is in USC’s all-time Top 4 in TD passes, completions, passing yards and total offense (above Matt Leinart’s school career records for completion percentage and interception rate), guides an offense that is averaging nearly 450 total yards and 35 points a game.  His main target is WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, who is in the Top 15 nationally in receiving yards and receiving TDs.  Steady TB Justin Davis and Freshman All-American candidate TB Ronald Jones II, who owns the USC freshman season rushing record formerly held by Heisman winner Charles White, are both within range of the season 1,000-yard rushing mark.  Jones is among 15 USC true freshmen to have played in 2015 (6 have started).

USC’s defense has been winning the turnover battle (+0.9, including 14 takeaways since Helton took over), is 15th in the nation in sacks (27 under Helton) and has 5 defensive scores this year.  The defense is led by OLB Su’a Cravens and 3-way star CB-WR-RET Adoree’ Jackson (the only player in the country with 300 yards receiving, 500 yards in kick runbacks, 200 punt return yards and 20 tackles), a Hornung Award finalist who has scored TDs in his career via a reception, an interception, a kick return and a punt return.

Wisconsin is 9-3 overall (6-2 for third place in the Big Ten West Division), with narrow home losses to Iowa (10-6) and Northwestern (13-7).  Its other defeat was in its opener at Alabama (35-17).  This will be the Badgers’ 14th consecutive bowl appearance, the Big Ten’s longest active streak.

Under first year head coach Paul Chryst, the Badgers feature a defense ranked first nationally in scoring defense (13.1), second in pass efficiency defense (95.12), third in total defense (267.1), fourth in rushing defense (97.9) and sixth in pass defense (169.2).  OLB Joe Schobert was named the Big Ten’s Linebacker of the Year and is tied for seventh nationally with 18.5 tackles for loss this year.

On offense, Wisconsin is led by senior QB Joel Stave, who has guided the Badgers to a school record-tying 30 wins.  He is second in Wisconsin history in career passing yards, touchdowns, completions and attempts.  His main target has been senior WR Alex Erickson, an All-Big Ten first teamer who has 72 catches in 2015.

Garry Paskwietz

A 1988 graduate of USC with a degree in Sports Information. Worked in sports marketing for LA Lakers and Miller Brewing Company. Began covering the Trojans in 1996 with the Trojan Football Fax. Founded WeAreSC in November 1998 with stints at Scout and ESPN. Emmy-winner while covering high school football at Fox Sports West.

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