Derek Carr

Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr has passed for a nation-leading 4,866 yards and 48 touchdowns this season. (Brian Bahr / Getty Images / November 29, 2013)

USC returns to the Las Vegas Bowl for the first time since 2001 with hopes of defeating Fresno State and ending its tumultuous season with 10 victories. Staff writer Gary Klein examines the story lines:

Bakersfield boys

USC quarterback Cody Kessler and Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr both grew up in Bakersfield and are friends.

Kessler, a third-year sophomore, has passed for 2,623 yards and 16 touchdowns, with six passes intercepted.

Kessler goes against a Fresno State secondary led by safety Derron Smith, who has a team-best six interceptions.

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Carr, a fifth-year senior, has passed for a nation-leading 4,866 yards and 48 touchdowns, with seven intercepted passes, in the Bulldogs' fast-paced offense.

Safety Dion Bailey has five interceptions for USC.

Receiving end

USC receiver Marqise Lee, who could be playing his final game for the Trojans, needs 12 catches to break Robert Woods' career receptions record of 252.

Lee has 50 receptions, only two for touchdowns. Sophomore Nelson Agholor has 51 receptions, four for touchdowns.

Fresno State's Davante Adams, Isaiah Bruce and Josh Harper each have at least 987 yards receiving. All have had 15-reception games.

Adams has a nation-leading 122 receptions and 23 touchdown catches.

Carrying on

Tailback Silas Redd is sidelined because of a knee injury and Tre Madden is also not expected to play because of a high ankle sprain.

So Javorius Allen and Ty Isaac will continue to carry the load for USC.

Allen, a third-year sophomore who was voted the team's most valuable player, has rushed for 699 yards and scored 13 touchdowns. Isaac, a freshman, has averaged six yards a carry and scored twice.

Fullback Soma Vainuku also could play tailback.

Fresno State's Josh Quezada has rushed for 787 yards and six touchdowns. He also has 48 receptions, one for a touchdown.

Lined up