Sun Bowl preview: Georgia Tech vs. USC
DEC 23, 2012 2:05p ET
As is customary for Georgia Tech opponents, USC's success will hinge primarily on its ability to stop the Yellow Jackets' triple-option rushing attack. The Trojans were not spectacular against the run this season under now-fired defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, allowing an average of 156.4 yards per game on the ground (59th nationally) and nearly 4 yards per carry.
That will not fly against Paul Johnson's offense, which will run it every play at that rate.
The Trojans have allowed four teams to rush for 200 yards or more this season, including a whopping 426 to Oregon. Ducks running back Kenjon Barner rushed for 321 yards and five touchdowns alone in that Pac-12 offensive showcase — Georgia Tech running backs Zach Laskey (637 yards) and Orwin Smith (673 yards) are likely salivating looking at those numbers. And while it’s undeniable that a spread-based running attack differs from Georgia Tech’s, stopping the run is still stopping the run. Entering the Sun Bowl, that is the Trojans' No. 1 focus.
If USC buckles down defensively, its offense should provide plenty of cushion.
Player to Watch
USC is about to unleash the best receiver in college football against a suspect secondary, which means no record is out of reach.
Sophomore wideout Marqise Lee leads the country in receptions and is second nationally in receiving yards in 2012, all while hauling in 14 touchdowns with alarming explosiveness. He caught 25 passes for 332 yards and two scores against three BCS bowl participants, so what is he capable of against the passing defense ranked 67th in average yards allowed in the country?
Lee, a world-class sprinter, should find plenty of running room against the Yellow Jackets, who have allowed an average 239.2 yards per game through the air vs. less-explosive ACC offenses. Georgia Tech allowed 350 yards passing or more three times this season (Miami, North Carolina, Clemson); of those offenses, only Clemson features a more prolific passing attack than the Trojans.
With ample attention also being paid to teammates Robert Woods, Nelson Agholor and Xavier Grimble, Lee is poised for a big day.
Georgia Tech will have an efficient game plan offensively, but it faces a much more talented opponent that will feel slighted with a Sun Bowl appearance after starting the season at the top of the polls.
Don’t forget: USC was once considered the No. 1 team in the country. And while that may seem like a pipe dream at this point in a 7-5 season, there’s still plenty of potential for a dominant performance in El Paso.
Triple-option teams are easier to solve defensively with multiple weeks of preparation, so as long as the Trojans enter this game without a nonchalant attitude, Kiffin should win his first bowl game with the Trojans — or with any school, for that matter.
The Pick: USC 35-21
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