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No. 21 Fresno State collides with USC Saturday in Las Vegas
By: Mark Kern - StatFox
Published: 12/21/2013  at  4:02:00 AM
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FRESNO STATE BULLDOGS (11-1)
vs. USC TROJANS (9-4)

Las Vegas Bowl
Sam Boyd Stadium - Las Vegas, NV
Kickoff: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET
Line: USC -6, Total: 62

Two top-25 BCS teams will take the field in Saturday's Las Vegas Bowl, as No. 21 Fresno State (No. 20 in BCS standings) will take on USC (No. 25 in BCS standings).

These two schools have some history against each other, as the Trojans defeated the Bulldogs 50-42 in 2005 in one of the best games of the past 10 years. Fresno State (5-7 ATS this season) was only a game away from potentially playing in a BCS game before falling to San Jose State 62-52 on Nov. 29. Just like his brother did at Fresno State, senior QB Derek Carr is putting together quite a resume at the helm of the Bulldogs offense. Carr (4,866 pass yards, 48 TD, 7 INT) has the ability to make all of the throws needed from a quarterback. While he has been amazing all year, he has not faced a defense quite like the Trojans, a team that pulled off one of the most impressive turnarounds midway through the season. After getting embarrassed on national television in a 62-41 loss to Arizona State on Sept. 28, the Trojans (6-7 ATS) fired Lane Kiffin, and interim coach Ed Orgeron helped turn the season around. However, he resigned after USC announced Steve Sarkisian as its new head coach, leaving interim coach Clay Helton in charge for this bowl game. With the team adjusting to its third coach in less than three months, questions about the players mindsets headed into the bowl game are warranted. Both schools have positive betting trends, as the Bulldogs are 16-5 ATS (76%) when playing on a Saturday over the past two seasons, while the Trojans are 25-11 ATS (69%) on the road after an SU loss since 1992.

Which team will capture the Las Vegas Bowl? For the answer, connect to College Football Best Bets for all the StatFox Experts picks throughout the 2013 regular season and bowl season. The four experts finished the regular season a collective 51.1% ATS (120-115-7) on college football Best Bets, led by StatFox Dave's stellar 57% ATS (35-25-2) mark. This included a 64% ATS (23-13-2) record in his final 11 weeks. StatFox Gary was 2-1 ATS in the final week to finish 53% ATS (21-19-1) in the regular season. Gary was 56% ATS (20-16-1) in college football Best Bets since Week 3. StatFox Brian also finished strong with a 3-1 ATS mark on Best Bets in Championship Week, giving him his fourth straight winning season of college football Best Bets at 52% ATS (33-30-1). StatFox Scott is looking to repeat a huge 2012-13 bowl season, when he posted a 71% ATS mark in Best Bets (5-2-1).

The Fresno State offense comes into the game ranked No. 1 in the nation in passing (409.8 YPG) and fifth in scoring (45.3 PPG). With the numbers QB Derek Carr put up this season (seven games of 4+ TD passes), there has to be somebody on the receiving end of those passes. Sophomore WR Davante Adams (122 catches, 1,645 yards, 23 TD) has been terrific all season long for the Bulldogs, and has taken his game to an even higher level recently. In the past three games, he has 31 catches for 678 yards (226 YPG) and eight touchdowns. The 6-foot-2, 212-pound Adams is a legitimate deep threat, but he also has the ability to go over the middle and beat his cornerback right off the line of scrimmage. Junior WR Josh Harper (79 catches, 1,011 yards, 13 TD) has also been outstanding this season, giving the Bulldogs multiple threats on the outside. While Fresno State does not run the ball a lot (161 rushing YPG, 71st in nation), junior RB Josh Quezada (787 rush yards, 5.1 YPC, 6 TD) has the ability to make defenses at least have to be aware of the ground game, opening up the passing game downfield. While the offense has been terrific, the defense has had some major problems, ranking 81st in the country with 29.1 PPG allowed, while giving up 426 total YPG (278 passing YPG, 148 rushing YPG). In the loss to San Jose State, the Bulldogs allowed David Fales to throw for 547 yards, but they did bounce back nicely in a 24-17 victory over Utah State in the Mountain West Championship game, holding the Aggies to 304 total yards, including 51 rushing yards on 40 carries. Junior DB Derron Smith (69 tackles, 6 INT) is a very talented player that has the ability to make plays from the safety position. He will be used to shut down both the Trojans' passing attack (namely Marqise Lee), but also stop their ground game.

The USC offense was inconsistent all season, especially in the passing game where it gained just 218 YPG (77th in FBS), leading to a mere 28.5 PPG (69th in nation). Sophomore QB Cody Kessler (2,623 pass yards, 16 TD, 6 INT) has been erratic at times, but has been much better as of late. In the past four games, Kessler has thrown for 816 yards and six touchdowns, but more importantly, zero interceptions. Junior WR Marqise Lee (50 catches, 673 yards, 2 TD) has not come close to duplicating the numbers he posted as a sophomore (118 catches, 1,721 yards, 14 TD), but he is still one of the most talented receivers in the country. Lee has the ability to score a touchdown any time he touches the ball, and against the Bulldogs defense, there will be opportunities for him to put up some numbers. USC's rushing attack is also to be feared with 174 YPG on 4.6 yards per carry. However, sophomore RB Tre Madden (703 rush yards, 5.1 YPC, 3 TD) will be a game-time decision due to a hamstring injury. If Madden can't play, sophomore RB Javorius Allen (699 rush yards, 6.5 YPC, 12 TD) is very capable of handling a heavy workload, as he has rushed for more than 120 yards in four of the past five games. The biggest reason why the Trojans saved their season was because of their defense, which gives up just 21.3 PPG (21st in nation) on 341 total YPG. Junior safety Dion Bailey (58 tackles, 5 INT) is one of the best secondary players in all of the country. USC has faced some talented offenses this season in conference play, but none that has the ability to throw the ball as well as the Bulldogs. If the Trojans are focused on the game and not their coaching carousel, this has the makings of an entertaining matchup.

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