FairwayJay’s FREE College Football Selection – December 21

FairwayJay’s Free College Football Selection December 21 & Game Analysis of Las Vegas Bowl Fresno State vs. USC

Line:  USC:  -6 I Total:  63

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LV BowlThe USC Trojans ( 9-4 SU, 6-7 ATS ) tackle the Fresno State Bulldogs ( 11-1 SU, 5-7 ATS ) in the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl on Saturday, December 21, 2013. Kickoff is at 3:30 ET from Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas, NV and you can watch and win on ABC television as a Pac-12 power tries to knock off the best in the Mountain West with plenty of betting action and a strong handle in Las Vegas.

The Trojans enter off their cross town rivalry loss to UCLA and have a new coach in Steve Sarkisian, who will not coach the team in the bowl game.  The players liked and respected interim head coach Ed Ogeron, their former defensive coordinator, but he’s moved on after the hiring of Sarkisian.  That leave Trojans offensive coordinator Clay Helton to handle the team during this bowl game and preparation, and he vowed not to make the same mistake as last year’s coaching staff and to have the Trojans on time to functions and kickoff.

The Trojans kept their season together after a 3-2 start and the firing of head coach Lane Kiffin.  USC’s dominant defense allowed them to keep things together and they showed their strength by beating Stanford 20-17 this season. Quarterback Kody Kessler was #2 in the Pac-12 in pass efficiency but he’ll be the #2 QB on the field in this match-up, as the Bulldog’s Derek Carr leads the nation’s #1 pass attack and the strong-armed senior had a tremendous season passing for 4,866 yards ( 405/game ), 70% completions with a nation-best 48 TD passes and just 7 interceptions.  Fresno State won the Mountain West Conference and Carr is a future first round draft pick in the NFL.  Carr is also quite athletic and mobile, and he was only sacked 11 times this season, so despite facing a top-tier USC defense, we still project over 350 yards passing.   His top target is Devante Adams, who caught 23 TD passes and averages 10 receptions per game and 123 YPG.  But following this bowl game, Fresno State will have three 1,000 yard receivers as Josh Harper ( 79/1,011 ) and Isaiah Burse ( 94/987 ) also had big seasons receiving.

Fresno State QB Derek Carr will be passing for TDs, not flying vs. USC

Fresno State QB Derek Carr will be passing for TDs, not flying vs. USC

Trojans RB Buck Allen has emerged as an explosive force rushing for at least 120 yards in four of the Trojans last five games and scoring 12 TDs his past eight games.  USC averages 392 YPG on offense ( 11th in Pac-12 ) and has the better running game and run defense.  USC’s defense was top-2 in the Pac-12 allowing 341 YPG and 126 YPG rushing.  Fresno State’s pass defense is a weakness, but still don’t expect enough offensive success by USC and they have been poor on third down and unable to sustain drives consistently.  The Trojans league-best punt return team could make a big play to turn this game in their favor, but we still anticipate a strong showing by the Bulldogs and like this ‘Dog with bite.

Well aware Pac-12 teams went 10-0 vs. the Mountain West this season and had a significant strength of schedule advantage in playing stronger teams.  Yet the coaching situation at USC is not only a concern, but a distraction and don’t believe the Trojans defense will play up to their usually strong level with their former defensive coordinator and interim coach no longer on the sidelines or involved with the team. Meanwhile, Fresno State coach Tim DeRuyter has simply gone 20-5 in his two season’s at Fresno State and the Bulldogs should be motivated and play strong knowing they played poorly and were beaten badly in last year’s bowl game as a big favorite.

These teams open the 2014 season against each other so this bowl game offers a nice preview for next season. It’s also the final farewell for tremendous QB Carr, and he guides a Bulldogs team that averages 29 first downs per game while scoring 45 PPG.   The Bruins are 1-5 ATS in their last six games following an ATS loss, and no surprise if they lose another one to the more motivated Bulldogs with plenty of bite.

 

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FairwayJay’s FREE College Football Selection on Saturday, December 21, 2013

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Author: FairwayJay

FairwayJay is a leading national sports analyst and is recognized as one of the sports industry's most insightful handicappers and professionals. Follow him on Twitter: @FairwayJay