TONIGHT! Your Nebraska Cornhuskers take on the Southern Cal Trojans LIVE from San Diego's Qualicomm Stadium in the National University Holiday Bowl.
If you look on paper, USC and Nebraska seemed to have similar seasons. 9-3 with no conference title game, and O & D's that score and give up the same amount of points.
However, as always we want to get tighter and find out what we should really know about the Trojans before the matchup tonight. For that, we turned to our SBNation community Conquest Chronicles. Evan Budrovich is one of the site Managers for CC, and he was kind enough to drop the knowledge for us about Trojan Football.
1) Overall it seems like Southern Cal has had a very good year. 9-3, couple wins over top 20 teams, but losses vs. UCLA and Arizona State kept them from the Pac 12 title game. What’s the overall feeling of this Bowl game for the team and fanbase?
You know it's interesting, the fact that USC has never played in the Holiday Bowl adds a bit of excitement to this game. Fans were jumping for joy over not playing in the Sun Bowl, and pretty much anything from San Diego to Santa Clara or even the Alamo Bowl would've been just fine. Obviously losing to UCLA leaves a sour taste in the mouth, but clobbering Notre Dame did soften the blow a tad. USC fans have Pac-12 South championship expectations, and with the infusion of talent returning next season, those goals will be just as high in 2015.
2) Cody Kessler is probably the best QB that the Huskers will face this season. He’s over 70% and 36 TD’s to 4 Int’s. Is he the biggest reason for success in this offense, or is it something else? Also, could this be his last game as a Trojan?
First and foremost, Cody Kessler IS FOR SURE coming back next season. Kessler is the most improved player from last season, dating back to the time when Lane Kiffin left and Ed Orgeron took over, and that spark is what has fueled USC's success. What we will say is that Buck Allen (and Justin Davis for that matter) have been equally important. The Trojans run more than they throw, and that comes from the trust Sarkisian has in both running backs to average over five yards per carry. Don't get me wrong, Cody Kessler has been great, but the running game and that dangerous play-action quick passing has made him into a strong quarterback this season. To comment on Kessler though, Cody does a great job of making things happen with his arm when the play breaks down and he's very smart with the football; almost to a fault sometimes.
3) Javorius Allen is the leading rusher for USC, but Justin Davis is also doing well rushing. Considering how well Nebraska plays against the pass but can allow rushing yards, are they along with the OL, the players that could be the most important bunch in this game?
Building off my last point, Allen and Davis are a great one-two punch that will be utilized a whole bunch in this game. USC loves to run off tackle, and the elusiveness of both backs make it hard for opposing players to make tackles in open space --thus the large success in the running game. USC ran past Utah and Stanford for over 100 yards, two run defenses that are pretty stout overall.
4) Nelson Agholor & Juju Smith is a formidable receiving combination to face and probably the best WR duo this year that will take on the Huskers Pass D. What do you think gives USC the advantage in this aspect?
Cody Kessler will get the football out quick, and on point. Nelson Agholor has morphed into an excellent possession receiver and that will make him an elusive target to account for at the line of scrimmage. USC also does an excellent job of motioning, moving him around the ball, to create real estate for the football. But watch out, JuJu Smith is special when he runs deep. Smith is a big, physical presence that can break the big play, not that Agholor can't (because he does a lot) but JuJu is hard to cover one-on-one. For a kid who just turned 18 in the second half of the season, Smith is already a freak athlete making big-time catches. Smith still has to improve his pass catching but the kid can really play.
5) USC gives up about the same amount of points per game as Nebraska does, however USC is much better against the run than the pass. Given that Nebraska has Ameer Abdullah at full strength but a questionable at best mid-level passing game, how do you see the Southern Cal D faring Saturday night.
This will actually be very interesting, mostly because USC is banged up on the line. Starting nose tackle Antwaun Woods is out, leaving the Trojans without a front-line stuffer to limit the running game. I think Abdullah will actually fare alright on Saturday, probably for around 85-100 yards, but USC's depth at linebacker is good enough to overcome some of the concerns up front.
6) How’s everyone feeling about Steve Sarkasian after his first full season as USC Head Coach?
Let me put it this way, Sark is safe but even he is starting to feel the pressure of a fan base dying for a 10-win season. Sark can win over some fans on National Signing Day but that doesn't mean his teams can continue to underperform, which they did to a certain extent this season.
7) With the way that USC went through everything last season after the firing of Lane Kiffin, is there any advise you can give Husker fans with the transitional phase of one staff coaching as a lame duck for another one?
Don't get too invested into the people you have on the interim basis. Players can get up for one individual game, practice, etc. but what makes a transition tough is that players have to kindle that emotion and utilize it on a 12-month basis. Winning takes time, especially as a new system comes into place, so be patient but also expect some players to back out or not like the changes coming their way.
8) Speaking of coaching transitions, what should Nebraska fans expect with the hiring of Mike Riley?
Mike Riley is one of the classiest men in college football. As someone who has watched USC lose countless times in Corvallis, that place still gives USC fans the goosebumps, Riley did a great job of inspiring confidence into his players. That said, Oregon State did underperform the last two-three years, especially after doing so well (record wise) in the non-conference and early part of Pac-12 play, the recent 6-7 win seasons have been all downhill in closing. Riley is a good fit, the question is whether Nebraska can start making Big-10 Championship games. If that happens, and it really should in that division, Riley will be a solid hire.
9) Do you expect a lot of folks to travel to San Diego from LA for the game?
Absolutely. USC fans love quick, easy road trips and the two-hour trek to San Diego will feel more like a weekend getaway than an actual Bowl Game. Hopefully the players take this game seriously, because Nebraska is no joke, but the Trojan fan base will be well represented in San Diego.
10) Anyone that you haven’t mentioned above that we should watch for on Saturday?
Keep an eye out for Adoree' Jackson, the talented Freshmen All-American that can make plays in special teams, offense and as a lockdown cover corner.
11) Alright, let’s hear your prediction of who will win and why in the Holiday Bowl.
USC will jump out to an early lead, thanks in large part to an offense that leads the nation in 1st quarter scoring differential. Nebraska will make some plays, mostly because the Trojans still struggles with mobile quarterbacks, but I don't see the defense doing enough to slow down Kessler and company. USC 35, Nebraska 20.