Holiday Bowl: Defense Makes Wisconsin Our College Football Pick vs. USC

Ross Benjamin

Saturday, December 19, 2015 1:49 AM GMT

Our college football handicapping professional takes an early look at the bowl game between Wisconsin and USC and offers his college football pick.

[/]{"component":"oddswidget", "eventId":2960437, "sportsbooksIds":[169,1096,93,19,92,238], "LineTypeId":1, "PeriodTypeId":1}[/]

College Football Pick: Wisconsin +3.5
Best Line Offered: at 5Dimes

 

Holiday Bowl
The Wisconsin Badgers (9-3) and USC Trojans (8-5) will square off in the 2015 Holiday Bowl on Wednesday 12/30. The opening kickoff at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California is slated for 10:30 PM ET, and it will be televised by ESPN. Current (12/18) college football odds at Heritage indicate that USC is a 3.5 point favorite.

 

Swan Song for Cody Kessler
This will be the final game for Cody Kessler in a USC uniform. The senior and three year starting quarterback has thrown for 10,118 yards, 87 touchdowns, completed 69.4% of his passes, and has been intercepted just 18 times in his college career. He will have his hands full against a Wisconsin defense that’s allowed just 6 touchdown passes all season long. If the Trojans want to see Kessler go out on a strong note, they must do a better job of protecting him. USC ranked107th in the country this season by allowing an alarming 35 sacks.

 

Tale of Two Seasons
USC entered this 2015 college football campaign considered to be a legitimate national title contender. Those aspirations were dissipated after getting off to extremely disappointing 3-3 start. Following a game 6 loss to Washington as a 17.0 point home favorite, then head coach Steve Sarkisian was relieved of his duties. He was replaced by Clay Helton on an interim basis, and USC went 5-2 in their final seven games, including a berth in the PAC-12 Championship Game. The interim tag was removed from Helton following a win over cross town rival UCLA in their regular season finale.

 

Good News/Bad News Scenarios
Wisconsin went a very good 9-3 during 2015 regular season action. Their only three losses came at the hands of Alabama, Iowa, and Northwestern. Those three teams enter the bowl season with a combined record of 34-4 (.895). Here’s the bad news, none of the Badgers wins in 2015 came against an opponent which finished with a winning record.

Wisconsin leads the country in scoring defense, allowing a paltry 13.1 points per game. They’re also 10th in 3rd down defensive efficiency by permitting opponents to convert just 30.6% of those specific situations. Now the bad news, offensively they’re far from dynamic, ranking 80th in that category. However, they’ll be facing a vulnerable and underachieving USC defense that allows a shade over 400 yards per game.

Must Read: A Brief Primer on Handicapping Bowl Games

Final Analysis and Pick
USC had a golden opportunity to end their season by playing in the prestigious Rose Bowl. Those hopes were squashed after sustaining a 40-21 loss to Stanford in the PAC-12 Title Game. It’s definitely worth noting, shortly after Clay Helton was signed to become the new head coach and his interim tag was removed, he proceeded to fire several of his assistants. That certainly could lend itself to the Trojans vulnerable in certain areas. The Badgers defense will keep them in this game, and their offense will do just enough. I’m taking the underdog for one of my college football picks.