2014 National University Holiday Bowl
Nebraska Cornhuskers vs #24 Southern California Trojans
Qualcomm Stadium – San Diego, California
Saturday, December 27, 2014, 8:00 pm Eastern, TV: ESPN
Opening Line: USC -5 1/2
Current Line: USC -7 (-105)
Opening Total: 61
Current Total: 62
Opening Money Line: USC -270 / Nebraska +225
Current Money Line: USC -280 / Nebraska +230
Two of college football’s traditional powerhouses collide in the Holiday Bowl Saturday in San Diego as the 9-3 Nebraska Cornhuskers and 8-4 Southern California Trojans meet for only the fifth time ever. Nebraska went 5-3 in the Big Ten West Division and finished tied for second with Minnesota behind 6-2 Wisconsin. USC went 6-3 in the Pac 12 South and tied for second with UCLA and Arizona State behind 7-2 Arizona.
USC leads the series 3-0-1 all-time against Nebraska. The Trojans swept a home and home in 2006 and 2007 including 49-31 in Lincoln in the last meeting. The two teams have never met in a bowl game. Nebraska and USC have combined for 16 national titles, 84 conference titles, and 10 Heisman Trophy winners.
Nebraska is 25-25 all time in bowl games. The Cornhuskers beat Georgia last year 24-19 in the Capital One Bowl to snap a 3 game losing streak in bowl games. Nebraska is playing in a bowl for the seventh straight season. The Cornhuskers are 1-2 all time in the Holiday Bowl. Nebraska lost to Washington 19-7 in 2010 Holiday Bowl in their last trip to San Diego.
USC is 32-17 all-time in bowl games. The Trojans have won 5 of their last 6 bowl games including 45-20 in the 2013 Las Vegas Bowl over Fresno State. USC has played in 2 straight bowl games after missing two years due to an NCAA imposed postseason ban. Despite being only roughly 120 miles from San Diego, USC has never played in the Holiday Bowl before.
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Despite winning 9 games this season, Nebraska fired head coach Bo Pelini. Pelini is now the head coach at Youngstown State. The Cornhuskers hired Mike Riley from Oregon State to be the new coach for 2015. Barney Cotton will serve as the interim coach for the bowl game.
Nebraska started off the season 8-1 but went 1-2 in their last 3 games to lose a spot in the Big Ten Championship game. The Cornhuskers have road losses at Michigan State 27-22 and Wisconsin 59-24, along with a home loss to Minnesota 28-24. Nebraska has home wins over Florida Atlantic 55-7, McNeese State 31-24, Miami-(FL) 41-31, Illinois 45-14, Rutgers 42-24, and Purdue 35-14, along with road wins over Fresno State 55-19, Northwestern 38-17, and Iowa 37-34 in overtime in the last game of the regular season. The Cornhuskers are 7-4-1 ATS and the total is 7-5 this season. Nebraska was a 1.5 point underdog against Iowa and the total was 53.
USC is coached by Steve Sarkisian. The Trojans have road losses at Boston College 37-31, Utah 24-21 and UCLA 38-20 and a home loss to Arizona State 38-34. USC has home wins over Fresno State 52-13, Oregon State 35-10, Colorado 56-28, California 38-30 and Notre Dame 49-14 in the last game of the season, along with road wins at Stanford 13-10, at Arizona 28-26, and at Washington State 44-17. USC has won 3 of the last 4 games. The Trojans are 7-5 ATS and the total is 5-7 this season. Southern Cal was a 4.5 point favorite against Notre Dame and the total was 62.
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Nebraska is outscoring teams 37-25 this season. The Cornhuskers are #13 in scoring and #47 in points allowed nationally. Nebraska is averaging 446 yards per game on offense including 198 passing and 248 rushing. The Cornhuskers are #35 in total offense, #17 in rushing and #93 in passing out of 128 FBS teams. On defense, Nebraska is allowing 373 yards per game including 196 rushing and 177 rushing yards. The Cornhuskers are #49 in total defense and #27 in pass defense. Nebraska is -2 in turnovers with 22 takeaways. The Huskers average 51 penalty yards per game and opponents average 49 per game. Nebraska is 74/174 on third and fourth down conversions and opponents are 64/198. The Cornhuskers have forced 28 sacks and allowed 19 this season. Nebraska is 46/53 scoring in the red zone with 37 touchdowns and opponents are 32/40 with 24 touchdowns. The Huskers have 3 punt returns for touchdowns plus 2 fumble returns for touchdowns, and have allowed 2 pick sixes and a punt return for a touchdown.
Nebraska quarterback Tommy Armstrong, Jr. has completed 51.7% of his passes for 2,314 yards with 19 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, along with 133 carries for 664 yards and 5 rushing touchdowns. Running back Ameer Abdullah has 237 carries for 1,523 yards with 18 touchdowns, along with 16 catches for 208 yards and 3 touchdowns. Imani Cross has 75 carries for 385 yards and 5 touchdowns. Terrell Newby has 63 carries for 282 yards with 5 touchdowns, along with 6 catches.
Receiver Kenny Bell has 40 catches for 717 yards with 5 touchdowns. Jordan Westerkamp has 41 catches for 666 yards and 4 touchdowns. De’Mornay Pierson-El has 15 catches for 219 yards and 3 touchdowns. Pierson-El also has three punt returns for touchdowns and has even thrown a touchdown pass. Thirteen Cornhuskers are questionable or out including four little used receivers, four offensive linemen, and four defensive players.
USC is outscoring teams 35-24 this season. The Trojans are #27 in scoring and #35 in points allowed. Southern Cal is averaging 453 yards per game on offense including 295 passing and 158 rushing yards. The Trojans are #31 in total offense and #15 in passing. On defense, USC is allowing 398 yards per game including 266 passing and 133 rushing yards. The Trojans are #27 in rush defense and #111 in pass defense. USC is +12 in turnovers with 22 takeaways. The Trojans are averaging 77 penalty yards per game and opponents average 56. Southern Cal is 118/217 on third and fourth down conversions and opponents are 77/203. USC has 30 sacks and has allowed 30 this season. The Trojans are 43/50 scoring in the red zone with 37 touchdowns and opponents are 34/47 with 25 touchdowns. USC has five defensive/special teams touchdowns and has allowed two.
USC quarterback Cody Kessler has completed 70.7% of his passes for 3,505 yards with 36 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. Running back Javorius Allen has 250 carries for 1,337 yards and 9 touchdowns along with 40 catches for 442 yards and a touchdown. Justin Davis has 125 carries for 550 yards and 4 touchdowns, along with 13 catches for 92 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Receiver Nelson Agholor has 97 catches for 1,223 yards and 11 touchdowns, along with 2 punt returns for touchdowns. Juju Smith has 51 catches for 658 yards and 5 touchdowns. George Farmer and Darreus Rogers each have 4 touchdown catches. Bryce Dixon has 3 touchdown catches. Three other receivers have 2 touchdown catches. Adoree’ Jackson has a kick return for a touchdown. Four defensive players are questionable or out for the Trojans.
Nebraska is 6-0 ATS on grass, 5-1 in non-conference games, 4-1 after a cover, 7-3 in December, 1-3-1 overall, 1-4 in neutral site games and 0-4 against Pac 12 teams.
USC is 4-0 ATS after gaining more than 450 total yards, 5-1 in bowl games, 9-2 against Big Ten teams, 5-2 after rushing for more than 200 yards and in neutral site games, 5-11 after passing for more than 280 yards, 3-8 after winning by more 20 points, 1-4 after a cover and after allowing less than 20 points and 1-5 after a straight up win.
Both of these teams are similar in that they both have good offenses and decent defenses. Nebraska struggles to stop the run and USC can’t stop the pass. I just don’t know how motivated Nebraska will be with an interim coach. It is for that reason I am taking the Trojans to win a high scoring game.