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Fresno State607720
USC14213745
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45


(21) Fresno State (11-1) vs. USC (9-4)



Saturday, December 21, 3:30 p.m. (ET)

From The Sports Network

By Gregg Xenakes, Associate College Football Editor

GAME NOTES: A tumultuous 2013 campaign draws to a close for USC on Saturday afternoon, as the Trojans line up against another program from the Golden State, the 21st-ranked Fresno State Bulldogs, in the Las Vegas Bowl.

The once-proud Trojans have had a few down years by their standards, even going so far as to fire head coach Lane Kiffin at the end of September after the team was blasted by Arizona State in a 62-41 final. Athletic Director Pat Haden buckled under the public pressure and ousted Kiffin in favor of interim head coach Ed Orgeron who was eventually named a semifinalist for the Maxwell Club's Coach Of The Year.

However, even after Orgeron guided the program to six wins in the next seven games, a record of 9-4 overall during the regular season, he was passed over for the permanent head coaching position with USC in favor of Washington's Steve Sarkisian, announced less than three weeks ago. While Sarkisian is set to lead the Trojans into the next era of football, he will not be on the sidelines against Fresno State, instead it will be interim head coach Clay Helton.

"We are extremely excited to have been invited to participate in the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl," said Helton after the team accepted the bowl bid. "It is a tremendous honor and a great reward to our team and what they have been able to accomplish in the 2013 season. We look forward to our trip to Las Vegas and the challenge of competing against one of the better teams in the country in Fresno State."

While the Trojans have dealt with a series of ups-and-downs in 2013, the Bulldogs have experienced highs almost exclusively. Under head coach Tim DeRuyter the team threatened to be the latest program to bust the BCS as it ran out to a perfect 10-0 mark, posting wild offensive numbers along the way. However, in the final regular-season game near the end of November the Bulldogs met their match at San Jose State, bowing to the Spartans in a 62-52 final.

The devastating loss took FSU out of the running for a potential BCS appearance as their 15-game, regular-season win streak came to an end.

"It hurts tremendously. Our guys each week I thought were prepared and I thought went into this one with a great game plan," DeRuyter said of the loss. "You got to hand it to San Jose State, we got some things to work on, but it hurts for the fact that it was in our grasp but we let it go."

The Bulldogs were able to bounce back the following week in order to take down Utah State in the first-ever Mountain West Conference Championship game, 24-17, but still the team has to wonder about what could have been.

In terms of a bowl history, the Bulldogs have a record of 11-13 dating back to a 27-26 win over Arkansas State in the Little All-American Bowl on Christmas Day back in 1937. More recently, Fresno State was blown away by SMU in the 2012 Hawaii Bowl, 43-10, marking the team's fourth straight postseason setback.

A staple in the postseason dating back to the 1923 Rose Bowl versus Penn State, the Trojans have the second-most bowl victories (31) in college football history behind only Alabama (34) after both programs surrendered one win due to NCAA sanctions.

As far as the relationship between these two teams is concerned, the series is split 1-1, the most recent matchup being a 52-42 victory for then top-ranked USC in 2005. However, that victory for the Trojans had to be vacated due to NCAA penalty. The good news for the Bulldogs is that their lone win came in the 1992 Freedom Bowl by a score of 24-7.

The Fresno State offense, one that ranks fifth in the country in scoring with 45.3 ppg, is driven by Mountain West Conference Offensive Player of the Year Derek Carr. The younger brother of former top NFL Draft pick David, Carr was named the 2013 Sammy Baugh Award winner as the nation's top passer as he led the country in total offense (4,983), total passing yards (4,866), passing yards per game (405.5),and passing TDs (48).

Carr, who has thrown at least one TD in 32 consecutive games, registered eight games this season with at least 400 yards through the air and is now one of 19 quarterbacks in FBS history to throw for over 10,000 career yards and 100 TDs. The signal caller needs 134 yards passing and two TD passes to become the fourth quarterback in FBS history to throw for more than 5,000 yards in a season and have 50 or more touchdown passes.

Helping to get Carr to those lofty goals will be Davante Adams who led the FBS in TD catches with 23, eight more than any other player and as many or more than 87 of the 123 teams at the FBS level. Adams leads the FBS in receptions per game (10.2) and total receptions (122), while ranking second in receiving yards per game (137.1) and total receiving yards (1,645, a new school record).

While Adams may grab the majority of Carr's passes as well as headlines, the USC secondary has to be careful not to forget about Isaiah Burse and Josh Harper, who registered 94 and 79 catches, respectively, amounting to a combined 1,998 yards and another 18 TDs.

The ground game for FSU also took some of the pressure off Carr, as Josh Quezada and Marteze Waller accounted for more than 1,400 yards and 13 TDs as both averaged better than five yards per carry.

From a defensive standpoint, Derron Smith was named First-Team All-MWC after placing third on the unit with 69 total tackles and leading the program with six interceptions. The unit had five players with at least seven TFL, the leader in that department being Ejiro Ederaine who topped out with 15.5 and also led the squad with 10 sacks.

At the start of the season coach Kiffin wasn't sure who his primary quarterback would be, but eventually Cody Kessler stepped into the position and played quite well. Kessler converted 64.7 percent of his passes for 201.8 ypg and 16 touchdowns, limiting his mistakes to just six interceptions on 331 attempts.

Marqise Lee was supposed to be one of the top receivers in the country and finished with 50 catches for 673 yards, but just two touchdowns as he dealt with injury. Instead, the go-to guy for Kessler became Nelson Agholor who turned his 51 receptions into 824 yards and four scores.

Injuries have also taken a toll on USC ball carriers this season as well. While nothing is confirmed, it appears as though Silas Redd will likely sit out this final contest due to a knee injury that is more serious than originally thought. Redd appeared in just six games and scored only one TD, so really it was Javorius Allen and Tre Madden who carried most of the load on the ground, the former averaging 6.5 yards per carry en route to 12 TDs.

Stopping the run, the Trojans were one of the best in the Pac-12 this season and ranked 19th in the nation with just 127.1 ypg allowed. Because of that effort the entire defense permitted only 341.5 ypg, ranking 16th in the country.

Devon Kennard and Leonard Williams both finished with 13.5 TFL and in the top- four in total stops. Kennard also logged a team-best nine sacks, followed by Williams with six. While the pair was forcing the pressure at the line of scrimmage, Dion Bailey and Su'A Cravens were protecting the secondary with five and four interceptions, respectively.

Against a household name like USC, Carr could certainly raise his profile on a national level, but he has to be careful not to forget that the players on the other side are some of the best the country has to offer. Granted, the Trojans had a rocky season, but that doesn't mean they won't be ready to play come Saturday.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: USC 34, Fresno State 27

12/18 11:08:15 ET

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Scoreboard
Local
Final
UNC 66
BUT 74
Final
ECU 73
HAW 75
Final
DUKE 93
FUR 54
Final
CHA 97
POR 105
Final
NCSU 84
RICH 72
Final
FLA 1
CAR 0
7:00pm Tonight
UNC
UCLA
 
Final
PHI 91
BRK 99
Final
ORL 96
GSW 111
Final
CHA 97
POR 105
Final
CLE 113
WAS 87
Final
DET 98
LAC 104
Final
DAL 109
NYK 102
Final
ATL 115
TOR 126
Final
MIN 86
MIL 103
Final
HOU 102
SAC 89
Final
OKC 97
UTA 82
Final
SAN 106
IND 100
Final
PHO 120
DEN 112
Final
LAL 93
MEM 99
7:30pm Tonight
TEXAM
LSU
7:30pm Tonight
TEX
TCU
Final
UNC 66
BUT 74
Final
FRES 64
MAR 68
Final
CHAT 61
RMU 46
Final
EMICH 68
ROCH 35
 
Final
MRGST 51
LIB 50
 
Final
HAMP 60
AMER 64
 
Final
BEL 78
DEN 57
Final
UMASS 79
NE 54
Final
JMU 79
SHU 72
 
Final
KNST 84
SAMF 71
 
Final
ECU 73
HAW 75
Final
CHAM 60
MIZZ 74
Final
CCAR 61
LAMON 48
Final
OKLA 75
UCLA 65
Final
ELON 65
UNF 72
 
Final
UWMIL 66
ORU 69
Final
WCU 66
CHIST 61
Final
DUKE 93
FUR 54
Final
BYU 85
PURD 87
Final
EVAN 79
USF 72
Final
COL 71
GTDNS 75
 
Final
VERM 73
BRY 47
 
Final
OSU 91
CAMP 64
Final
LOU 45
CLST 33
Final
UCF 69
DAVID 95
Final
IONA 126
DELST 76
 
Final
OU 78
UGST 83
Final
TOWS 97
GOUCHER 43
 
Final
ND 81
GRAM 54
 
Final
YALE 82
LAF 60
 
Final
GWU 91
LONG 66
 
Final
VT 78
UMO 63
Final
WAKE 83
MNTER 49
 
Final
NAVY 67
PSUHARRIS 42
 
Final
NCSU 84
RICH 72
Final
MINN 61
STJ 70
Final
JVU 69
TRINBAPT 57
 
Final
YOUNG 66
UMKC 63
 
Final
UAB 43
WISC 72
Final
CORN 67
CAN 60
Final
WVU 103
VMI 72
Final
DEP 74
LEH 86
 
Final
UNT 67
MVSU 52
 
Final
MARS 68
MORE 77
Final
TCU 74
RAD 50
 
Final
SELA 86
TENT 65
 
Final
SMU 72
TXSOU 59
 
Final
UTAH 85
TXPA 48
Final
LMU 66
UCR 62
Final
SCAR 89
UNCA 75
 
Final
SD 86
WAYNEST 69
 
Final
PITT 70
KYST 47
Final
UWGB 59
FLGC 45
Final
IOWA 70
NILL 49
Final
ORST 69
AUB 71
Final
MONT 75
CARROLLMT 52
 
Final
SUTAH 64
EKENT 73
Final
NMST 78
FAM 33
 
Final
WYO 65
STET 41
 
Final
EWASH 81
NKENTUCKY 60
 
Final
IDST 57
WLVRN 60
 
Final
GEOR 66
UF 65
Final
GONZ 88
UGA 76
 
Final
NIOWA 61
NW 42
Final
CAL 72
CPSL 52
Final
UCD 77
UTST 70
Final
SDST 59
ARZ 61
 
Final
NDAK 75
ALAST 68
Final
CSNO 55
PORST 63
Final
AKAN 62
PAC 71
 
Final
OKST 73
TULSA 58
2:00am Today
COLST
MIZST
12:00pm Today
TENN
SCU
 
12:00pm Today
RMU
LAMON
 
1:00pm Today
BUT
OKLA
 
2:00pm Today
BRO
PEAY
 
2:00pm Today
UTEP
PRIN
 
2:30pm Today
CHAT
CCAR
 
2:30pm Today
RIU
KU
 
3:30pm Today
USCU
FIU
 
3:30pm Today
GEOR
WISC
 
4:00pm Today
USB
LIU
 
4:30pm Today
XAV
SDU
 
5:00pm Tonight
INDST
ILL
 
6:00pm Tonight
WRST
CSFU
 
6:00pm Tonight
STJOE
WKENT
 
6:30pm Tonight
RIDE
MSU
 
7:00pm Tonight
UNC
UCLA
 
8:30pm Tonight
WMICH
LBSU
 
8:30pm Tonight
GT
MARQ
 
9:00pm Tonight
PVU
STEPH
 
9:30pm Tonight
MERC
RICE
 
9:30pm Tonight
UF
UAB
 
11:00pm Tonight
WASH
SJST
 
11:59pm Tonight
MEM
BAY
 
11:59pm Tonight
UCSB
WASU
 
Final
NYI 3
WAS 2
Final
BUF 1
WIN 2
Final
FLA 1
CAR 0
Final
TAM 4
NYR 3
Final
DET 5
PHI 2
Final
PIT 4
TOR 3
Final
MIN 0
LOS 4
Final
COL 2
CHI 3
Final
SJS 0
CAL 2
8:00pm Tonight
NAS
EDM
 
12:30pm Today
DET
CHI
4:30pm Today
DAL
PHI
8:30pm Tonight
SFX
SEA