Game Preview: Holiday Bowl - USC Trojans
Iowa will look to cap a 10 win season, when they square off with University of Southern California Trojans in San Diego, California for the 2019 Holiday Bowl. USC enters with an 8-4 record on the season and was the runner-up in the Pac-12 South Division. Iowa will serve as the home team and wear their black jerseys. This will be the 10th meeting between the programs, with USC holding a 7-2 advantage, and the first meeting since the 2003 Orange Bowl, a game the Trojans won 38-17. Iowa is currently listed as a 2 point favorite.
Iowa's Offense Against The Trojan Defense
The Iowa offense is due for a breakout game, and this may be an opportunity for them to flex their muscles against a suspect USC defense.
The Trojans defense is allowing just under 250 passing yards per game and just over 165 yards to opposing rushing attacks each game. There should be an opportunity for the middle of the Iowa offensive line to have a redemption game and break open some big holes for young Tyler Goodson in the backfield. If Iowa can establish itself in the running game, there should be ample opportunities to throw out of running formations and use play action pass as the game wears on.
Iowa certainly isn't on the level of some of the offenses that USC has faced this year, but I think that Nate Stanley can have a monster final game in the Black and Gold and this offense can spring board itself into the New Year will a really solid performanance. The offensive explosion won't be one that results in Iowa putting up 45 or 50 points on this USC defense, but I do see Iowa jumping out to a two score lead early and riding the running game to end up in the 24-31 point range for a final score.
Iowa's Defense Against The Trojan Offense
This game will be the single biggest test that the Iowa defensive secondary will face all season. USC brings an air raid offense with them to San Diego and the Iowa secondary will have to be at its best to slow it down.
In a lot of ways, it feels like the season has been building to this point for the Iowa defense. Early in the season, injuries and inexperience made the Iowa defensive secondary look porous, particularly against Iowa State. The Iowa secondary weathered the storm, using those injuries to become experienced despite their youth, and has really rounded into form down the stretch. Iowa will likely need to lean on that depth, as the deep passing threat is ever present with USC. The Trojans will have their full compliment of wide receivers for this game, as senior Michael Pittman Jr. has announced he will play.
The key to an Iowa victory will be can the defensive secondary keep everything in front, and can the defensive front for the Hawkeyes cause enough havoc to make freshman quarterback Kedon Slovis uncomfortable throwing the football. The Iowa defense is more than capable of slowing down what has been a potent USC offense, but they will have to limit the big plays USC gets.
The Trojan offense will have a couple of good drives, but will ultimately find much of their day to be frustrating and underwhelming. Iowa shows the epitome of bend don't break, allowing over 400 yards of offense, but only allowing 14 points.
Anytime Iowa squares off with a potent offense, the defense needs some help with field position from their special teams. Michael Sleep-Dalton has been the essence of consistency this year, and with a dry forecast and 60 degrees I would expect no different.
Keith Duncan has been excellent this year, and has proven to be reliable at capping drives. Something to keep an eye on in this one, Keith is just 2 made field goals away from tying the NCAA record for makes in season. If Iowa gets up comfortably, look for the offense to try and get Duncan in a position to break that record.
Bowl games are so hard to predict, just because there is a motivation factor that no one is quite sure how to handle. In my mind, Iowa has an edge in that department. Iowa has a chance for a 10 win season, which doesn't happen often in Iowa Football. USC's fans are upset that they are going to the Holiday Bowl and that coach Clay Helton is still patrolling the sidelines.
I look for Iowa to come out of the gates physical, establishing dominance over the line of scrimmage against an SC defense that I think comes out flat. I see Iowa going up two scores before USC can get their feet under them, then finishing the game by forcing a couple of costly Trojan turnovers. Iowa emerges with a 10-point victory in San Diego, that really doesn't seem that close.
As always, On Iowa! and Go Hawks!
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