Sun Bowl Pick
Matt Barkley returned for his senior season so he could play in a BCS bowl and possibly the National Championship. The result? A matchup against a school with a 6-7 record in the Sun Bowl, played on Dec. 31. This was nowhere near the hopes of the preseason No. 1 school. USC comes into this game as 10-point favorites against the losers of the ACC championship game, Georgia Tech.
USC first slipped up against Stanford in the third week of the season. Everything was fine for them at 6-1, but once their competition stiffened, they faltered. The Trojans lost four of their last five games of the season. They struggled against all of the top teams in the Pac 12. Their best wins came against Syracuse and Arizona State. In other words, they didn't really beat anyone of major importance.
Georgia Tech hasn't been much better and that's why they're in this bowl. Their only win with any significance was at North Carolina where they won by a ridiculous score of 68-50. On the positive side of things, they dominated all of the worst teams in the ACC. The Yellow Jackets most upsetting losses came at home against Middle Tennessee and BYU where they allowed over 40 points in each of those games. Neither of those schools averaged more than 30 points per game for the season if that says anything.
The defense in this game will be hard to find, which is why the spread isn't bigger because USC has somewhat of a defensive deficiency. They have trouble setting themselves apart from their opponent.
On the offensive end, things are fine for the most part. Barkley has one more chance for NFL teams to get a look at him in a game situation so another 300-yard, three-TD performance is definitely in sight for him. He's already done that in six of 11 games this year. His totals look like this: 3,273 passing yards, 36 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. That's the most interceptions he's thrown in his career including nine in his last four games. Barkley has some of the best receivers in the game to throw to and that's all he needs. Marqise Lee is second in the nation with 1,680 receiving yards on 112 receptions and 14 touchdowns. On the other side of the field is Robert Woods who doesn't get as much attention, but still has 73 grabs for 813 yards and 11 TDs. Penn State transfer running back Silas Redd has had trouble all season long trying to get something going. He only has 817 yards and nine TDs for the season. He and senior Curtis McNeal (696 yards) will likely split time out of the backfield in this game.
The Yellow Jackets definitely have their hands full defensively, but they will try and counter that with the fourth best rush offense in the country, averaging 312.5 rushing yards per game on the year. The more clock they use, they less they will have to see of Barkley and company. USC has been mediocre stopping the run this season with about 156 yards per game and 16 touchdowns.
Georgia Tech runs the famed triple option which may be a little easier to stop after a full month of practice. For defenses during the regular season, it's a little hard to prepare for in just a week's work. Quarterback Tevin Washington leads the attack with 161 carries and 19 touchdowns. They have six rushers with at least 416 yards including Washington. Three of those have over 600 yards. As a team, the Yellow Jackets have 47 rushing TDs. They have rushed 745 times this year compared to just 184 pass attempts. Washington has 1,173 yards through the air to go with seven touchdowns.
If Georgia Tech can get their ground attack going, this could turn out to be a very interesting game. USC has no dominant wins this year, other than their two against Hawaii and Colorado, two of the worst teams in college football this year. There's nothing here to suggest that they can extend a margin against a decent Tech team. Throw in the fact that the Trojans had their sights set much higher this year and are likely to be disinterested in this one, and we'll have to grab the generous points. Georgia Tech +10