Las Vegas Bowl preview: Fresno State vs. USC
Fresno State (11-1) vs. USC (9-4)
December 21, 3:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Fresno State Players to Watch:
Derek Carr, QB—There’s not another name on the Fresno State roster that has more of an impact than Carr’s. A future NFL quarterback, Carr has a nation-leading 4,866 passing yards and averages over 50 attempts per game. While his supporting cast on the defensive side has contributed to those numbers, he’s still one of the best signal-callers in the country and is poised to have a big game.
Davante Adams, WR—Carr’s No. 1 target is Davante Adams, which means quite a bit in terms of offensive production. Adams has 122 receptions (No. 1 in the NCAA) for 1,645 yards (No. 2 overall) and eight more touchdowns than any other receiver in the country (23).
USC Players to Watch:
Marqise Lee, WR—When healthy, Lee is one of the most dangerous wide receivers in the nation. But that doesn’t mean much when you have a lingering knee injury and an inconsistent quarterback. If Lee can get some help from his counterparts and find open space, he could have a field day against Fresno State’s secondary.
Josh Shaw, S—Possibly the biggest name to watch is Shaw, who could have the most difficult task of the day in covering Davante Adams. This will be the difference in the game—if Shaw can do a good job containing Derek Carr’s top receiver and forcing him to spread the ball around, the Trojans have a great chance to win.
Fresno State Keys to Victory:
Score touchdowns in the red zone. Fresno State owns the 48th-best red zone offense, while USC has the No. 3 red zone defense. It’s not a question that Derek Carr will be able to move the ball on the Trojans’ secondary—which is extremely talented, but lacks depth—but efficiency inside the 20-yard line will be key. This is the best unit the Bulldogs have seen all year, and field goals won’t win this game.
USC Keys to Victory:
Balance. Fresno State has one of the worst defenses in the FBS (No. 91 overall), which was quite evident in its 62-52 loss to San Jose State. USC needs a quality performance from quarterback Cody Kessler, and must sustain an early running game between Tre Madden and Javorius Allen. Obviously the Trojans’ defense needs to do a good job keeping Derek Carr from connecting on big plays, but the biggest factor will be how well the offense can move the ball and keep Carr and Co. off the field.
Line: USC (-6.5)
Prediction: You have to wonder how in-sync the USC players will be with Ed Orgeron gone and Clay Helton running the team. He’s done a nice job calling plays the last half of the season, but how will the defense respond? I wouldn’t be surprised to see Derek Carr slice-and-dice the Trojans for Fresno State’s 12th and final win of the season.
Fresno State 38, USC 35