USC vs. Wisconsin Prediction, Holiday Bowl Preview

    USC (8-5) got through the storm to get to the Pac-12 title game, but now is when the new era under Clay Helton really begins. Wisconsin (9-3) had a strangely disappointing year, but a ten-win season would be a decent first step under first-year head man Paul Chryst. Check out the USC vs. Wisconsin prediction and National Holiday Bowl game preview.

    December 18, 2015

    USC (8-5) got through the storm to get to the Pac-12 title game, but now is when the new era under Clay Helton really begins. Wisconsin (9-3) had a strangely disappointing year, but a ten-win season would be a decent first step under first-year head man Paul Chryst. Check out the USC vs. Wisconsin prediction and National Funding Holiday Bowl game preview.


    USC vs. Wisconsin Game Preview

    Broadcast

    Date: Wednesday, December 30

    Game Time: 10:30 pm ET
    Network: ESPN
    Venue: Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, CA
    Follow and/or Contact @PeteFiutak 

    Why You Need To Care

    It’s hard to call a nine-win season a huge clunker, but Wisconsin played three teams that weren’t bad – Alabama, Iowa and Northwestern – and lost to all three. Technically, the Badgers beat two bowl teams in Nebraska and Minnesota, but they have yet to beat a team with a winning record with the losses to the Hawkeyes and Wildcats at home as disappointing as any big-time team had all year. Yes, the Badger really were two plays away from playing in the Big Ten championship with a shot at the playoff, and now this is a chance to prove the team is for real.

    The program got Barry Alvarez back for last season’s Outback Bowl thriller over Auburn, and it was a must after losing four straight bowl games and six of the last seven. This might have been an outstanding run for Wisconsin over the last few decades, but even with the problems this season a win over USC, a bowl victory, and a ten-win campaign would be a good push into what should be a better 2016.

    USC got hot after the Steve Sarkisian debacle, but losses to Oregon and Stanford in two of the last three games put a bit of a damper in a rebounding year. Beating UCLA always helps, and getting to the Pac-12 title game was big, but no matter how it’s sliced, a loss would be an 8-6 year for a team many thought should’ve been in the playoff mix.

    As rocky as the USC world has been over the last few years, going back through the Pete Carroll era, the program has won nine of its last 11 bowl games, six of its last seven, and two in a row, including last year’s Holiday win over Nebraska.

    Why USC Will Win

    It’s an overstatement to call the Badger offensive line a mess, but it’s nowhere near the level it’s normally at, and it’s not even close to being as good as it’ll be over the next few years.

    Injuries crushed the Bucky front five with three freshmen likely to start against the Trojans around star left tackle Tyler Marz. With RB Corey Clement’s status still up in the air, the running game that sputtered and coughed all season long should have a rough time against an aggressive Trojan front four that’s not going to be powered on by this group.

    The key for Wisconsin all season long in the big games has been turnover margin. Good for the most part, the Badgers wet the bed in the three big games going -1 against Alabama, -2 against Iowa, and -5 against Northwestern – the only three games all season they were in the negative. USC has been phenomenal in the turnover battle – especially after Helton took over – going a +12 on the year with only one negative after the Notre Dame loss. 5-0 when winning the turnover battle, the Trojans have to force mistakes.

    Why Wisconsin Will Win

    USC’s turnaround was helped in a big way by cranking up the running game and going to the power attack. Cody Kessler might be an elite quarterback, but the offense settled down once the O line was able to line up and fire away. There’s one problem with that – Wisconsin’s run defense is special.

    It held up better than the stats against Derrick Henry and Alabama in the opener, but that’s Derrick Henry and Alabama. Nebraska ran a little bit, but that’s about it for everyone other than the Crimson Tide with Wisconsin allowing fewer than three yards per carry in eight of the 12 games. This is a very strong, very aggressive defensive 3-4 scheme that gets into the backfield and stuffs drives on a regular basis. USC isn’t going to be able to power over this group. The competition hasn’t been USC throughout the year, but Wisconsin brings the nation’s No. 1 scoring defense and No. 3 total D. And now it’s rested.

    Player Who Matters

    This is a young Wisconsin defensive front with just about everyone back, but it loses star pass rusher Joe Schobert, a playmaking outside linebacker with cranked out 76 tackles on the year – with 13 against both Northwestern and Alabama – with 9.5 sacks and 18 tackles for loss. He has just a half a sack in the last seven games, but with offenses keying on him, junior Vince Biegel picked up the slack on the other side with five sacks in the last four games.

    By a 19-mile-wide margin, USC’s Cody Kessler is the best quarterback Wisconsin has faced all year. In his final game as a Trojan, the veteran needs to be sharp, accurate, and has to hit the third down throws there for the taking. He took a bit of a backseat over the second half of the season with the running game doing more, but when he was on, he was as good as any passer in America connecting on 82% of his throws in the win over Cal and 73% in the shootout against Oregon. If Schobert and Biegel to get to Kessler, the midrange passing game will be deadly.

    What’s Going To Happen?

    USC has the flash and the talent, and it’s going to come into the game looking to make a big statement. It won’t matter. The Wisconsin defense is the real deal and will keep the game just close enough so much-maligned quarterback Joel Stave can finish it off in the fourth quarter. The Badger running game won’t be there, but in a close, tight battle, the defense will get it done when needed.

    USC vs. Wisconsin Prediction

    Final Score: Wisconsin 27, USC 24, Line: USC -3, o/u: 50.5
    Must See Rating: 5: Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens – 1: Property Brothers at Home on the Ranch … 4

    MORE: BOWLNANZA: 40 video previews for 40 bowl games

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