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2013 Las Vegas Bowl Preview: Fresno State vs. USC

The No. 20 Fresno State Bulldogs (11-1) may have had their BSC hopes dashed with a late season loss to San Jose State, but they still have the opportunity to cap off their best season in school history with a big win over the No. 25 USC Trojans (9-4) in the 2013 Las Vegas Bowl today.

The Bulldogs will be battling a team that has faced and overcome its fair share of adversity, as the Trojans finished the season with one of the Pac-12 Conference’s strongest records amid two head coaching changes – the latest of which saw interim coach Ed Orgeron resign after the school named former Washington coach Steve Sarkisian as its next head man.

“Rebuilding is not a word around here. Coach O proved that,” Sarkisian said, according to ESPN.com. “I understand it stings right now. Over time, it will get better. I’m going to be real with those guys, and they’ll be real with me.”

While Sarkisian has already met with and spoke to his new squad, he won’t be on the sidelines for today’s game. Instead, offensive coordinator Clay Helton will act as USC’s interim coach today, guiding the Trojans in their third ever meeting with Fresno State.

Helton and his staff will be tasked with devising a defensive gameplan for yet another explosive offensive-minded team, however, this one happens to own the nation’s best passing attack (409.8 yards per game) and the third most efficient overall unit in the country (570.6 yards per game). In going against similarly built spread offenses – including Arizona’s and Washington State’s – the Trojans did have some success and finished the season as the Pac-12’s top ranked defense against the pass (214.5 yards allowed per game).

Meanwhile, Fresno’s defense has proven to be vulnerable at times, as the team allowed 35 points or more in four of its games this season. The Bulldogs gave up 50 or more twice and even allowed 62 in the one game they lost this year.

While it may seem that USC would have a more difficult time scoring on that Fresno defense without running back Silas Redd – who will sit out with a knee injury – the Trojans know they can lean on Javorius Allen to carry a bigger load. In the team’s last five games, Allen is averaging 112.4 yards per contest, punching it across the goal line 10 times in that span.

If the Bulldogs aren’t able to stop the run, their offense will have fewer possessions to work with and less time to adjust to USC’s stingy secondary and their changing coverages. Considering the Trojans have had success on the ground against bigger and more physical defensive fronts, the Dogs could be in for a long day on that side of the ball.

Look for USC to establish the run and dominate time of possession against Fresno, which will strip the Bulldogs of some of their offensive power. Take the Trojans to cover -7 points in the win.











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