College Football Las Vegas Bowl Betting Preview: #25 USC Trojans vs #20 Fresno State Bulldogs

2013 Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl
#25 Southern California Trojans vs #20 Fresno State Bulldogs

Sam Boyd Stadium – Las Vegas, Nevada
Saturday, December 21, 2013, 3:30 pm Eastern, TV: ABC
Opening Line: USC -4 1/2
Current Line: USC -7 (-105)
Opening Total: 62
Current Total: 62
Opening Money Line: USC -220 / Fresno State +185
Current Money Line: USC -265 / Fresno State +225

Fresno State is a 7 point underdog against USC in the Las Vegas Bowl.
Fresno State is a 7 point underdog against USC in the Las Vegas Bowl.

The 11-1 #20 ranked Fresno State Bulldogs had a chance to go to a BCS bowl, but lost their regular season finale at San Jose State 62-52. The Bulldogs would rebound to beat Utah State 24-17 in Fresno in the Mountain West Championship game. Fresno earned a trip to Las Vegas to face the 9-4 #25 USC Trojans. The Las Vegas Bowl is the first bowl of the season to feature two ranked teams. USC went 6-3 in the Pac 12 South and finished third behind Arizona State and UCLA.

The Bulldogs are making their 25th bowl appearance and 13th in the last 15 season. Fresno is 12-12 in bowl games but the Bulldogs have lost 4 straight bowl games. Fresno State was crushed last year in the Hawaii Bowl 43-10 by SMU. USC is 32-17 in Bowl games all-time. The Trojans lost to Georgia Tech 21-7 last year in the Sun Bowl to snap a four game post-season winning streak for USC. Each team has played in the Las Vegas Bowl once. Fresno State lost to Utah in 1999 and USC also lost to Utah in 2001.

Fresno State and USC have played twice. The Bulldogs won the first meeting 24-7 in the 1992 Freedom Bowl in Anaheim. USC won a classic shootout in LA 50-42 in 2005. Eventual Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush rushed for 294 yards and 2 touchdowns in that game. The win was later vacated by the NCAA due to violations by the Trojans. USC and Fresno State will open the season against each other next year in the Coliseum.

The Trojans will be playing for their third head coach this season. Lane Kiffin was fired after a lackluster 3-2 start. Ed Orgeron took over as the interim coach, and USC went 6-2 under his leadership. Many thought Orgeron should have been offered the permanent job, but USC hired former Trojan assistant and current Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian for the position. They offered Orgeron an assistant coach position, but he refused and left the program. Offensive coordinator Clay Helton will coach the Trojans in the Las Vegas Bowl.


USC has home losses to Washington  State 10-7 and UCLA 35-14 to close out the regular season along with road losses at Arizona State 62-41 and at Notre Dame 14-10. USC has home wins over Boston College 35-7, Utah State 17-14, Arizona 38-31, Utah 19-3 and over then #5 Stanford 20-17 along with road wins at Hawaii 30-13, Oregon State 31-14, California 62-28 and at Colorado 47-29. The Trojans are 6-7 ATS and the total is 4-9 this season. USC was a 4.5 point favorite against UCLA and the total was 52.5.

The Trojans are outscoring teams 29-21 this season. USC is #22 in points allowed out of 125 FBS teams. USC is averaging 392.3 total yards per game, including 218.1 passing and 174.2 rushing yards. USC is #59 or worse in total, passing and rushing offense.  The Trojans are allowing 341.2 total yards per game on defense including 126.7 rushing yards per game and 214.5 passing yards. USC is #16 in total defense, #19 in rush defense and #33 in pass defense nationally.  USC is +6 in turnovers with 21 takeaways.  The Trojans have forced 35 sacks and allowed 33. USC is 65/185 on third and fourth down conversions and opponents are 71/207. The Trojans are averaging 55 penalty yards per game and opponents are averaging 47.  USC is 33/36 scoring in the red zone with 24 touchdowns, and opponents are 26/41 with 21 touchdowns. The Trojans have 3 punt returns for touchdown and one pick six this season and have allowed three pick sixes and a fumble return for a touchdown.

Cody Kessler and Max Wittek were splitting the snaps at quarterback but Kessler won the job as he has taken almost all of the snaps the last nine games.  Kessler has completed 64.7% of his passes  for 2,623 yards with 16 touchdowns and 6 interceptions, along with a rushing touchdown. Wittek has thrown for 212 yards with a pick.

Running back Tre Madden has 138 carries for 703 yards and 3 touchdowns, along with  15 catches for 201 yards and 4 touchdowns. Javorius Allen has 108 carries, 699 yards and 12 touchdowns, along with 18 catches, 219 yards and a touchdown. Justin Davis has 53 carries, 361 yards and 6 touchdowns, along with a catch. He is out for the season with an ankle injury. Silas Redd has 81 carries, 376 yards and a touchdown, along with 10 catches 45 yards and a touchdown. Running back D.J. Morgan is out Saturday with a knee injury as is Taylor Ross.

Receiver Nelson Agholor has 51 catches, 824 yards and 4 touchdowns, along with 2 punt returns for touchdowns. Marqise Lee has 50 catches for 673 yards and 2 touchdowns. Xavier Grimble has 23 catches, 248 yards and 2 touchdowns. Darreus Rogers has 20 catches for 226 yards. Little used tight end Shane Sullivan and receiver Steven Mitchell are both out for the season with knee injuries. Six defensive players and two offensive linemen are listed on the injury report for the Trojans.

Fresno State is coached by Tim DeRuyter. The Bulldogs won their first 10 games of the year, but did have a game at Colorado that was cancelled because of flooding. Both schools tried to reschedule the game but were unable to find a common open date. Fresno State has home wins over Rutgers 52-51 in overtime, Cal Poly 41-25, Boise State 41-40, UNLV 38-14, Nevada 41-23, and New Mexico 69-28. The Bulldogs also have road wins at Hawaii 42-37, Idaho 61-14, San Diego State 35-28 in overtime, and Wyoming 48-10. FSU is 5-7 ATS and the total is 6-6 this season. The Bulldogs were 2.5 point favorites over Utah State in the Mountain West Championship game two weeks ago and the total was 61.

Fresno State is outscoring teams 45-29 this season. The Bulldogs are #5 in scoring and #81 in points allowed nationally. FSU is averaging 570.6 yards per game on offense including 409.8 passing and 160.8 rushing yards. The Bulldogs are #3 in total offense and lead the nation in passing. On defense, Fresno is allowing 425.8 yards per game including 278.2 passing and 147.7 rushing yards. The Bulldogs are #41 in rushing defense, #118 in pass defense and #92 in total defense. Fresno State is +1 in turnovers with 21 takeaways. The Bulldogs average 52 penalty yards per game and opponents average  59. FSU is 101/211 on third and fourth down conversions and opponents are 90/238. The Bulldogs have forced 39 sacks and allowed 11 sacks this season. Fresno is 58/68 scoring in the red zone with 50 touchdowns and opponents are 35/41 with 27 touchdowns. The Bulldogs have 2 punt returns for touchdowns, a pick six and a fumble return for a touchdown, and have allowed 2 kick returns and a fumble return for touchdowns.

Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr has completed 70.1% of his passes for 4,866 yards with 48 touchdowns and 7 interceptions, along with 40 carries for 117 yards and 2 touchdowns. He leads the nation passing yards and touchdowns  but wasn’t invited to New York as a Heisman finalist. He needs 134 passing yards to become only the fourth quarterback in NCAA history to pass for 5,000 yards in a season. Back-up Brian Burrell has thrown for 51 yards and has a rushing touchdown.

Running back Josh Quezada has 153 carries for 787 yards and 6 touchdowns, along with 48 catches for 283 yards and a touchdown. Marteze Waller has 120 carries for 629 yards and 7 touchdowns, along with 21 catches for 148 yards. Malique Micenheimer has 31 catches for 148 yards and 2 touchdowns, plus 4 catches. Little used running back Dontel James is out for the season with a toe injury.

Receiver Davante Adams has 122 catches for 1,645 yards with 23 touchdowns. Adams is second nationally in receiving yards, and first in receptions and touchdowns. Josh Harper has 79 catches for 1,011 yards and 13 touchdowns. Isaiah Burse has 94 catches for 987 yards and five touchdowns, along with 9 carries for 81 yards and 2 rushing touchdowns. He also has 2 punt returns for touchdowns. Only four teams in college football history have had three 1,000 yard receivers on the same team, Houston (2009), Hawaii (2007), Tulsa (2007) and Texas Tech (2003). Florida State can also accomplish the feat in the BCS National Championship game against Auburn next month. Marcel Jensen has 24 catches for 344 yards and 3 touchdowns. Greg Watson has 20 catches for 284 yards and a touchdown. Three defensive backs are out for the season for Fresno State.

USC is 4-1 ATS in bowl games, 20-9 after a straight up loss, 2-5 in December, and against MWC teams, 2-6 after a double digit home loss, and 1-7 in non-conference games.

Fresno State is 16-6 ATS after allowing 100 rushing yards or less, 7-3 after allowing less than 20 points, 2-5 against Pac 12 teams, 3-8 0n fieldturf, 1-4 after a cover, 0-4 in bowl games, after rushing for 100 yards or less, and in neutral site games.

This game is a match-up of USC’s strong defense and Fresno’s explosive offense. On the other side, the Bulldogs struggle on defense, especially against the pass, but the Trojans can sometimes struggle to move the ball and score. USC might not have a lot of motivation for this game after the popular Orgeron left after feeling disrespected by the university. I think Fresno wins a close shootout in an upset.

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