LOS ANGELES, CA (News4uonline) – What a difference one defeat or two or three can make in a college football season. When it comes to college football, what you do early in the season will either come back and become a benefit or it can haunt you. The USC Trojans learned this lesson the hard way.
Three of the Trojans’ four defeats on the season mattered when it counted. Those losses are what will keep USC out of playing in the Rose Bowl Game and has Pac-12 Conference champions Oregon strolling down to Pasadena to play some football on New Year’s Day.
Well, wait a minute! Let’s keep things in perspective. USCs’ reward for recording an 8-4 overall mark and a second-place finish in the Pac-12 Conference South Division, came with an announcement that the Trojans will be playing Iowa in the 2019 Holiday Bowl.
It’s not the Rose Bowl Game invite that coach Clay Helton and the Trojans wanted when they set their sights on the prize at the beginning of the season, but a chance to play in the Holiday Bowl is no chump change.
“We are proud and honored to be part of the 2019 Holiday Bowl,” Helton said. “The game is a terrific matchup between teams that finished very strong down the stretch. To have the opportunity to compete against a team coached by Kirk Ferentz, who is so respected in our profession, is an honor. Our players are excited for this game, which is almost a home game for our fans. We look forward to heading to San Diego and experiencing the first-class hospitality that the Holiday Bowl has given us in the past.”
There is a huge contrast from playing a couple of days after Christmas to playing in the international spotlight on Jan. 1. The Trojans, despite upsetting Utah early in the season, cost themselves an opportunity to add another storied chapter in USC football lore with an appearance in the Rose Bowl Game.
This came in the form of defeats to Washington, Notre Dame, and then Oregon. In regards to conference play, the Trojans registered a 7-2 mark. Take away either the defeat to Washington or Oregon, then the Trojans would be getting ready to take on Wisconsin on New Year’s Day.
That September 28-14 loss to Washington stung the Trojans. USC’s 30-27 defeat to Notre Dame came a week later.
The dagger for the Trojans’ chances of playing in the Rose Bowl Game was thrown down by Oregon on Nov. 2. The Ducks took the Trojans to the woodshed with a 56-24 win on USC’s turf at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
Thank you, and good-night. But all is well for the Trojans. At least for the time being. Against Iowa, USC will be up against a formidable opponent. The Holiday Bowl figure to be a contest of wills. Iowa, the Big Ten West Division third-place finisher, doesn’t give up points too readily.
For the 2019 campaign, the Hawkeyes ranked No. 5 in the country when it comes to scoring defense, has surrendered just a notch over 13 points per game. That’s in contrast to the way the USC offense has conducted its business all year long. The Trojans are a run-and-go offense.
Freshman quarterback Kedon Slovis, who stepped in nicely for the injured JT Daniels, passed for 3,242 yards and 28 touchdowns. Michael Pittman, the No. 6 wide receiver in the nation when it comes to catching the football ( 95 receptions,1,222 yards, 11 TDs), has been the go-to-guy all season for Slovis and the Trojans.
For the season, USC averages 33 points and nearly 400 yards (398) per game. That wasn’t enough against Oregon. The Ducks rolled 28 second-quarter points against the Trojans and coasted the rest of the way in this huge Pac-12 Conference showdown. In many ways, the Oregon-USC matchup represented a storied past running up against the now.
Since 2009, Oregon has won five Pac-12 Conference titles. On the other hand, USC has a total of one. The Trojans’ lone conference championship came in 2017 when the Sam Darnold-led team advanced to play in the Cotton Bowl where eventually USC lost to Ohio State. It is an interesting dynamic to see how a couple of defeats can change the course and fate of a bowl-bound team at the end of the season.
At least for USC, at least the Trojans have a reward to show for their hard work. Teams sitting at home during this avalanche of college football bowls are wondering what could they have done to be where the Trojans are.