USC players look forward to playing Nebraska in Holiday Bowl

USC players look forward to playing Nebraska in Holiday Bowl
Quarterback Cody Kessler says of USC's game against Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl in San Diego: "It's going to be like a home game for us." (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

USC players, available to the media for the first time since their Holiday Bowl matchup against Nebraska was announced, said Friday that they were looking forward to playing the Cornhuskers.

The Trojans play Nebraska on Dec. 27 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego.

"The coolest part is that it's San Diego, it's two hours away," quarterback Cody Kessler said. "It's going to be like a home game for us.

"Hopefully, we get a lot of fans to make the trip. The biggest part for me was who we get to play, and I think Nebraska is really a quality team."


USC is 8-4 and coming off a victory over Notre Dame.

Nebraska is 9-3 and will be coached by interim Coach Barney Cotton.

USC receiver Nelson Agholor noted that Nebraska was "a very historic program — obviously a program that is a nationally known brand. So it's a great opportunity for both us and them."

Motivating factor

Coach Steve Sarkisian indicated that defensive lineman Leonard Williams got caught in a numbers game that resulted in him being selected to the Walter Camp All-America second team — rather than the first.

Utah's Nate Orchard, who has 17 1/2 sacks, Missouri's Shane Ray (14 sacks), Ohio State's Joey Bosa (13 1/2) and Clemson's Vic Beasley (11) made the first team.

Williams recorded six sacks.

"In this day and age in college football, I think so many times people get caught looking at numbers — and there was a lot of guys this year that had a bunch of sacks," Sarkisian said, noting that Williams is deployed as an interior lineman and has played through ankle and shoulder injuries.

"I thought he had a fantastic season," Sarkisian said. "Not everybody has to agree with me. There's more teams to come out. We'll see how it plays out for him."

Heisman watch

Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy on Saturday, will play in a College Football Playoff semifinal — and possible final — before he almost certainly makes himself available for the NFL draft.

USC won't be sad to see him go.

The Trojans faced the fourth-year junior only once.

In 2012, Mariota completed 20 of 23 passes for 304 yards and four touchdowns and rushed for 96 yards in Oregon's 62-51 victory over the Trojans at the Coliseum.

In 2013 and 2014, because of the Pac-12 Conference schedule rotation, USC did not play Oregon or Washington.

The Trojans are scheduled to play the Ducks next season on Nov. 21 at Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Ore.

Quick hit

USC will practice Saturday and Sunday and then take Monday and Tuesday off before resuming practice Wednesday.