The No. 24 USC Trojans (8-4, 7-5 ATS) are set to take on the Nebraska Cornhuskers (9-3, 7-4-1 ATS) in the 2014 National University Holiday Bowl. Kickoff is scheduled for 8:00 EST Saturday, December 27 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego and will be televised on ESPN. Oddsmakers currently have the Trojans listed as a 7-point favorite with the total set at 61.5 points.
USC had hopes of winning the Pac-12 South in their first season under head coach Steve Sarkisian, but two heartbreaking losses to Arizona State (34-38) and Utah (21-24), left the Trojans wondering what could have been. USC ended up in a 3-way tie for second in the South at 6-3. The Trojans are 33-17 all-time in bowl games, including a 8-2 record over their last 10. Last year they rolled over No. 21 Fresno State 45-20 in the Las Vegas Bowl.
Nebraska also had their goals set on playing for a conference championship, but the Cornhuskers stumbled down the stretch with two losses in their last three games to finish tied for 2nd in the Big Ten West at 5-3. Despite having won at least 9 games each season, Nebraska fired head coach Bo Pelini. Assistant Barney Cotton will serve as the interim head coach in the bowl game. The Cornhuskers had gone 4-3 in bowl games under Pelini, including a 24-19 win over No. 23 Georgia in last year’s Gator Bowl.
Early Free NCAAF Pick: USC -7
The Trojans should have no problem winning here by at least a touchdown over the Cornhuskers. Anytime a team loses their head coach prior to a bowl game, its a huge red flag and I just don’t see Nebraska coming out motivated at all against USC. On top of that, the Trojans are the far superior team here. The Trojans were a couple of fluke losses away from winning the Pac-12, while the Cornhuskers went just 5-3 in the declining Big Ten and all 5 wins came against opponents that failed to finish the year with a winning record inside conference play.
This is also a bad matchup for the Nebraska offense. The Cornhuskers rely almost exclusively on their running game, as they averaged 45 rush attempts to just 26 pass attempts on the season. That plays right into the strength of the USC defense, which finished the year 27th against the run (132.5 ypg) compared to 104th against the pass (265.7 ypg).
USC is 9-2 ATS in their last 11 games versus the Big 10 and 5-1 ATS in their last 6 bowl games.
While the Nebraska offense figures to struggle to sustain drives, USC should have no problem moving the football against the Cornhuskers defense. Nebraska gave up a ridiculous 471.7 ypg over their last 3 contests, which includes that horrific performance against Wisconsin, where they allowed the Badgers to rush for 581 yards.
The Cornhuskers finished the year ranked a mere 77th in the country against the run (176.5 ypg) Even though USC’s offense is built more around their passing attack, they have rushed for 200+ yards 6 times this season. You also have to keep in mind that Nebraska pass numbers defensively are aided by the fact that they haven’t faced a lot of strong passing teams. Backing this up is the fact that they allowed 359 yards to Miami, who was starting a true freshman in just his 4th career game.
Nebraska is 1-4 ATS in their last 5 games played on a neutral field and 0-4 ATS in their last 4 against the Pac-12. USC is 9-2 ATS in their last 11 games versus the Big 10 and 5-1 ATS in their last 6 bowl games.
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