USC vs. Iowa: San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl fearless prediction and game preview.
USC vs. Iowa: Holiday Bowl Broadcast
USC (8-4) vs. Iowa (9-3) Game Preview
If want in on the bowl games, sign up with BetMGM
Three Reasons Why You Should Watch The San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl
– It’s time to step it up, Pac-12. This has been a better season for the conference overall, and it has a few stars at the top, but this is one of those bowls – call it the Rose Bowl Lite – that the conference needs to be able to hold over the Big Ten, because it hasn’t been able to do it over the last few seasons.
The Big Ten has won the last four San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowls after Nebraska failed to represent the conference with a 45-42 loss to USC in the 2014 version. Last year it featured the two respective conference championship losers – Northwestern beat Utah – but this matchup is even stronger.
– This is the 55th bowl game in USC history, and Clay Helton could use a win. He has gone 1-3 as the full-time coach, but he won the 2013 Las Vegas Bowl as the interim head man. He also won the 2017 Rose Bowl, but his team got walloped by Ohio State in the 2017 Cotton Bowl, and last year’s team didn’t go bowling.
Now that he’s the head man going into 2020 – and it’s not going to be Urban Meyer, James Franklin, or any of the other options thrown about – this is the moment of affirmation.
He’s coming into this on a three-game winning streak with the team winning five of its last six games. A win would make this a good nine-win season and quiet down the grouchiness of the fan base that wanted Urban. A loss … that can’t happen or it’ll be a rough offseason.
– The last time we saw Iowa playing USC, Carson Palmer and company were blowing the doors off of Brad Banks and the 2002 Hawkeyes in the Orange Bowl. Head coach Kirk Ferentz had a rough run of bowl games with five straight ugly losses before winning the last two – taking out a strong Mississippi State team in the 2018 Outback.
A win would make this the school’s first double-digit victory campaign since 2015 – culminating in a brutal blowout against Christian McCaffrey and Stanford in the Rose Bowl – and would be school’s second three-game bowl winning streak since Ferentz got it done from 2009 to 2011.
Iowa’s three losses came to Michigan, Penn State and Wisconsin by a grand total of 14 points. Beat USC, close out with a fourth straight win and a sixth win in seven games, and it’ll be a terrific season.
CFN Podcast: Holiday Bowl discussion, picks
Why Iowa Will Win
– Stop the USC passing game – or at least slow it down – and sop USC. Iowa has one of the nation’s most effective pass defenses, but it’s been feast or famine, allowing fewer than 200 yards in nine of the games, and over 300 yards in the other three. However, the Hawkeyes won all three games when they were bombed on.
USC will get its yards, but it’s dead when it throws picks. Trojan passers gave up 14 interceptions on the years with nine of them coming in the four losses. Iowa doesn’t take the ball away in bunches, but it’s only allowing quarterbacks to hit 58% of their throws with a pick in ever game but three. It’s hard to get the deep ball going against this group, and again …
– Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers. Iowa is fantastic when it comes to the turnover margin having given the ball away just 12 times with seven coming in the three losses – the Michigan and Penn State defeats were the only times the team lost the turnover battle. Iowa was -5 against the Wolverines and Nittany Lions, and a +11 against everyone else.
On the other side, USC is a turnover machine, losing the battle six times and going a -7 on the year. It’s 0-3 when going a -2 or worse in the turnover battle, and Iowa is +2 or better three times.
– Nate Stanley is 2-0 in bowl games. He was just okay against Boston College in the win Pinstripe Bowl win two years ago – throwing for 99 yards and a score – and last season he kept his cool against the tremendous Mississippi State defense hitting 68% of his passes for 214 yards and three scores with a pick. He doesn’t have to bomb away against the Trojans, and he only threw 14 touchdown passes on the year, but he’s the senior veteran who won’t make the big mistake.
Why USC Will Win
– Welcome to the Kedon Slovis show. Nate Stanley might be the heady veteran, but Slovis is the freshman bomber who cranked up 400 yards or more in four of his last five games with 19 touchdown passes and 28 on the year.
Razor-sharp to close out the season, he hit close to 80% of his throws in the last three games – wins over Arizona State, Cal and UCLA – and he should be able to keep it all going against an Iowa secondary that’s fantastic, but again, was bombed on by the better passing games allowing over 300 yards against Minnesota, Purdue and Iowa State.
Star senior WR Michael Pittman will play in the bowl, and now all the top targets are back. He caught 95 passes for 1,222 yards and 11 scores, but he’s not alone with four big play weapons to spread the ball around.
– Yeah, Nate Stanley is good, and he’s not going to screw up, but the Iowa passing game isn’t strong enough to keep up the pace if USC can get up fast. There’s no Hawkeye running game to get excited about – most of the production on the year came in three big games against Miami University, Middle Tennessee and Nebraska.
This is hardly a rock of a Trojan defensive front, but the better running games – other than Utah’s, Washington’s and Notre Dame’s – weren’t a killer. Iowa’s is just okay.
– Iowa is going to win the time of possession battle, and it really doesn’t matter. The Trojans did just fine against the teams that wanted to gear down the pace a bit.
The USC offense is amazing at cranking up a whole lot of first downs with the ability to keep pushing and pushing – keeping offensive coordinator Graham Harrell around with a contract extension will help the cause – and Iowa has to grind. USC can strike quickly, and Iowa can’t.