USC to start bowl preparations Friday

USC to start bowl preparations Friday
USC Trojans Coach Steve Sarkisian reacts to a call in a 38-20 loss against the UCLA Bruins. (Stephen Dunn / Getty Images)

USC won't learn its bowl destination until Sunday, but the Trojans will get a head start on preparation when they return to practice Friday.

Players have been off since Saturday's 49-14 rout of Notre Dame, a victory that gave the Trojans an 8-4 record.


The outcome of Friday's Pac-12 Conference championship game between Oregon and Arizona at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara will cause a ripple effect for USC and every bowl-eligible team in the conference.

The Trojans appear to be possible candidates for the Dec. 27 Holiday Bowl in San Diego, the Dec. 27 Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas, the Dec. 30 Foster Farms Bowl in Santa Clara or the Jan. 2 Alamo Bowl in San Antonio, Texas.

Coach Steve Sarkisian said the first bowl practices would be dedicated to developing younger players.

"Kind of going back to the basics," Sarkisian said. "Going back to the fundamentals, the schemes and just how we do everything."

The latter practices "gets into making sure we're putting our players in the best position to be successful, so that we're really good come the game," Sarkisian said.

Last season, after the firing of Lane Kiffin and the departure of interim coach Ed Orgeron, offensive coordinator Clay Helton led the Trojans to a 45-20 rout of Fresno State in the Las Vegas Bowl.

The Trojans practiced eight times before that game. The NCAA does not limit a team's number of practices before a bowl game.

Riley departure

USC probably wasn't sad to see Mike Riley leave Oregon State to become coach at Nebraska.

USC was 8-3 against Riley-coached teams during his two stints at Oregon State. But the Trojans struggled in the last decade at Reser Stadium in Corvallis, Ore.

The Beavers defeated the third-ranked Trojans, 33-31, in 2006. In 2008, Oregon State upset top-ranked USC, 27-21. And USC lost, 36-7, in 2010.

Riley, a former Trojans assistant under John Robinson, was pursued twice by USC to become head coach.

The San Diego Chargers would not let him out of his contract in 2000, which eventually led to the hiring of Pete Carroll. USC also made overtures to Riley when Carroll left to become coach of the Seattle Seahawks after the 2009 season.

Awards season


Quarterback Cody Kessler and defensive lineman Leonard Williams are finalists for postseason awards.

Kessler is among 11 finalists for the Manning Award, presented to the top quarterback in college football. Kessler, a junior, has passed for 36 touchdowns, with four interceptions. He ranks fourth nationally in passing efficiency.

Other finalists: Ohio State's J.T. Barrett, Texas Christian's Trevone Boykin, Marshall's Rakeem Cato, Colorado State's Garrett Grayson, UCLA's Brett Hundley, Oregon's Marcus Mariota, Baylor's Bryce Petty, Mississippi State's Dak Prescott, Alabama's Blake Sims and Florida State's Jameis Winston.

The Manning Award takes into account bowl performances. The winner will be announced in January.

Kessler also is a finalist for the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, presented to the top senior or fourth-year junior quarterback.

Williams is a finalist for the Ted Hendricks Award, presented to college football's top defensive end.

Williams, a 6-foot-5, 300-pound junior, has 8 1/2 tackles for losses, including six sacks. He also has intercepted a pass and forced three fumbles.

Other finalists: Ohio State's Joey Basa, Clemson's Vic Beasley, Washington's Hau'oli Kikaha, Utah's Nate Orchard and Missouri's Shane Ray.

The winner will be announced Dec. 10.