Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Cram Session - Bowl Edition

Holiday Bowl

Nebraska (9-3) vs. #24 USC (8-4) in San Diego, CA

Trojans coach Steve Sarkisian finds himself in a familiar position, facing off against the Cornhuskers in the Holiday Bowl. The difference this time is that Bo Pelini won't be on the opposing sideline. Nebraska finally made the move that was necessary, jettisoning Pelini despite his penchant for nine win seasons. Pelini might have the most misleading record in the history of coaching. On the surface it looks impressive, but when you dig deeper and see how miserably Nebraska failed against top tier opponents, you understand why a change was made. The hiring of former Oregon State coach Mike Riley didn't seem all that inspired, but there is no denying that his style will be in sharp contrast to what Husker fans saw out of Pelini.

In the meantime Nebraska's players, who weren't too enamored with the coaching switch, need to try to focus on the task at hand. Barney Cotton will serve as interim coach for this game, as seniors like Ameer Abdullah and Kenny Bell try to go out in style. Sophomore QB Tommy Armstrong Jr. had an up and down season, and Riley's biggest task going into next season will be the development of Armstrong. That will become even more critical with Abdullah no longer on the team next season. Abdullah had a special senior season, and you can bet that he will be a major part of the gameplan for this game. Receivers Bell and Jordan Westerkamp will have to try to win their individual battles with the Trojans athletic corners. Defensively, the Huskers have been up and down, and another reason Pelini was let go, was that despite his experience on the defensive side of the ball, he was never able to consistently field a dominant unit on that side of the ball.

The Huskers will have their hands full with a talented Trojans offense, led by one of the best quarterbacks in the country, Cody Kessler. The junior finished the regular season with 36 TDs and just 4 INTs, capping off his season with a dominant 6 TD performance against Notre Dame. In six games this season, Kessler threw 4 or more touchdowns. Kessler's favorite receiver is fellow junior Nelson Agholor. Agholor really came on strong down the stretch, finishing with over 100 yards receiving in five of his last six games, and going over 200 yards in two of those games. However, the Trojans offense isn't all about passing. Another junior, RB Javorius Allen led the Trojans with 1,337 yards rushing this season. Allen has been held in check in the Trojans last three games, not eclipsing 100 yards rushing in those contests. Before that, he had gone over 100 yards rushing in eight of USC's first nine games.

Talent wise, the Trojans are a step above Nebraska. Add in the shake up at the coaching position and this will be a tall task for Nebraska. It would be nice if they could at least be competitive with the Trojans but I don't see that happening. I expect the Trojans to dominate the Huskers on the offensive side of the ball, and the Huskers will finish with a Pelini staple, a four loss season.

Prediction: USC 38, Nebraska 24

Overall: 103-31

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