USC

How USC and Wisconsin match up for the Holiday Bowl

Times staff writer Gary Klein examines how the USC and Wisconsin football teams match up in advance of Wednesday's Holiday Bowl at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego:

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Wisconsin run game vs. USC defense

Wisconsin is not the rushing juggernaut of past seasons but the Badgers have talent. Dare Ogunbowale has rushed for 769 yards and seven touchdowns, Taiwan Deal has 495 yards and six touchdowns. Corey Clement, a potential game-breaker, was sidelined much of the season because of an abdominal injury and was cited by police in November for disorderly conduct, but he is expected to play against the Trojans. Clement has scored four touchdowns in 29 carries. Senior left tackle Tyler Marz has started 39 consecutive games. The line also features four redshirt freshmen: guards Micah Kapoi and Beau Benzschawel, center Michael Deiter and tackle Jacob Maxwell. USC is giving up 147.2 yards rushing per game. The Trojans are trying to bounce back after surrendering 207 yards rushing to Heisman Trophy finalist Christian McCaffrey of Stanford in the Pac-12 Conference title game. Inside linebackers Cameron Smith and Lamar Dawson suffered season-ending injuries in November so the Trojans are relying on sophomore Olajuwon Tucker.

Edge: Wisconsin

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Wisconsin passing vs. USC secondary

Senior quarterback Joel Stave has established a school single-season record with 343 passes. He has completed 60.3%, but more passes have been intercepted (11) than resulted in touchdowns (10). Receiver Alex Erickson has 72 catches, three for touchdowns. Tight end Austin Traylor also has three touchdown catches. USC cornerback Iman Marshall has three interceptions and the other corner, Adoree' Jackson, has one. Senior Kevon Seymour is nursing a high ankle sprain and probably will be sidelined. Chris Hawkins and Marvell Tell are expected to start at safety. Kenechi Udeze, an All-American defensive end and first-round NFL draft pick, is coaching USC's defensive line in the bowl game. Delvon Simmons has four sacks, Antwaun Woods three.

Edge: USC

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USC run game vs. Wisconsin defense

Junior Justin Davis has rushed for 875 yards and five touchdowns and is the go-to back in game-clinching situations. Freshman Ronald Jones II is a breakaway threat. He has rushed for a team-high 940 yards and eight touchdowns, with a 177-yard effort against Arizona. Chad Wheeler, a three-year starter at left tackle, is not playing after his involvement in an incident with police on Dec. 19. Zach Banner moves from right tackle to left, and Chuma Edoga will start at right tackle. The Badgers are giving up only 97.4 yards rushing per game, which ranks fourth nationally. Linebacker T.J. Edwards has a team-best 80 tackles. All-American linebacker Joe Schobert has 18 1/2 tackles for loss, linebacker Vince Biegel 14.

Edge: Wisconsin

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USC passing vs. Wisconsin secondary

The Badgers are giving up 169.2 yards passing per game, which ranks sixth nationally. Safety Tanner McEvoy has six interceptions and also is a threat on offense as a receiver and as a runner taking direct snaps. Schobert and Biegel have combined for 17 1/2 sacks. But Wisconsin has not played a team with a passer as experienced as USC quarterback Cody Kessler, a fifth-year senior who has completed 67% of his passes, 28 for touchdowns, with six interceptions. JuJu Smith-Schuster has turned 10 of his 85 catches into touchdowns and leads a receiver corps that includes Steven Mitchell Jr., Darreus Rogers and Jackson, who, like McEvoy, plays offense and defense.

Edge: USC

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Special teams

Jackson averages 22.9 yards per kickoff return and has returned two punts for touchdowns, giving the Trojans a game-changing element. USC kicker Alex Wood has made 13 of 17 field-goal attempts. Punter Kris Albarado averages 41.3 yards per kick. Wisconsin's Rafael Gaglianone has made 15 of 24 field-goal attempts. Erickson returns punts and Natrell Jamerson averages 22.3 yards per kick-off return, including one for a 98-yard touchdown. Punter Drew Meyer averages 39.7 yards per pick.

Edge: USC

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Coaching

USC's Clay Helton is in charge for the ninth game this season, his second as permanent head coach. Helton fired four assistants — including defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox — after the Pac-12 championship game. He appointed linebackers coach Peter Sirmon as defensive coordinator for the bowl game. The bowl game staff also includes graduate assistants, an administrative assistant and an assistant strength coach. First-year Wisconsin Coach Paul Chryst was the Badgers' offensive coordinator from 2005-11 before he became head coach at Pittsburgh. His staff includes defensive coordinator Dave Aranda. Receivers coach Ted Gilmore oversaw the same position group at USC in 2011.

Edge: Wisconsin

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Final score

USC 31, Wisconsin 27

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Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
A version of this article appeared in print on December 30, 2015, in the Sports section of the Los Angeles Times with the headline "HOLIDAY BOWL: HOW USC AND WISCONSIN MATCH UP" — Today's paperToday's paper | Subscribe
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