Sun Bowl Game Notes
After a 2-year NCAA imposed bowl ban, USC will be back in the post-season with its New Year’s Eve midday appearance in the 79th annual Hyundai Sun Bowl to take on ACC foe Georgia Tech. Both programs have impressive bowl traditions, as this is the 49th bowl trip for the Trojans and 41st for the Yellow Jackets.
It is also the third Sun Bowl berth for both squads, although Georgia Tech played in El Paso last year and USC hasn’t been there since 1998 (that also was the last time Troy played a game in the state of Texas). It is the first meeting between the teams since 1973, and just the fourth ever. It is also USC’s fourth game on Jan. 31 (all have been bowls in Texas).
USC has won its last 4 bowls (and 7 of the past 8), while Tech has dropped its past 7 bowls. The Trojans are seeking their 11th straight 8-win season. USC historically has had success in Monday games and against ACC squads. USC A.D. Pat Haden, who used to broadcast Sun Bowl games on CBS, once threw a pair of TD passes against Georgia Tech, including one to current Trojan athletic administrator J.K. McKay.
Both USC and Georgia Tech saw their 2012 seasons turn south, as the AP pre-season No. 1 Trojans started off 6-1 but then lost 4 of their last 5 games and the Yellow Jackets needed an NCAA waiver to qualify for the post-season because of a 6-7 record.
USC, still smarting from end-of-season losses to traditional rivals UCLA and Notre Dame, feature some of the nation’s top offensive performers. Unanimous All-American WR Marqise Lee, the Biletnikoff Award winner and Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year who was fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting, leads the nation in receptions (he is second in receiving yards and third in all-purpose yards) after setting league records for season receptions (112) and receiving yardage (1,680).
Joining him as a pass catching threat is 2011 All-American WR Robert Woods, USC’s career receptions leader. Whether they’ll be catching aerials from QB Matt Barkley, the 2012 Wuerffel Award winner and National Football Foundation Scholar-Athlete who owns 20 USC records (including Pac-12 marks for career total offense, passing yards, completions and TD passes), or promising redshirt freshman QB Max Wittek remains to be seen depending on Barkley’s recovery from a shoulder injury.
TBs Curtis McNeal and Penn State transfer Silas Redd man USC’s ground attack, with Rimington Award finalist and Academic All-All American second team C Khaled Holmes and Freshman All-American OT Max Tuerk helping to open the holes.
USC’s defense (with coordinator Monte Kiffin calling his final Trojan game), in the national Top 10 in sacks and tackles for loss, features Hendricks Award finalist DE Morgan Breslin (he has the most sacks and TFLs by a Trojan since 2003), 2011 All-American S T.J. McDonald (the team’s top tackler) and Freshman All-American DT Leonard Williams.
ACC Coastal Division champ Georgia Tech, led by head coach Paul Johnson, needed an NCAA waiver (because of a sub-.500 record) to qualify for a bowl, is a post-season participant for the 16th consecutive year. The Yellow Jackets’ spread option attack is fourth nationally in rushing offense (312.5 yards per game) and averages 34.5 points a game.
QB Tevin Washington, who has thrown for 1,173 yards and run for another 638 yards this year, holds ACC records for quarterback rushing TDs in a career (37) and season (19 in 2012). RBs Orwin Smith (673 yards) and Zach Laskey (637 yards) also have rushed for 600-plus yards in 2012. OG Omoregie Uzzi is a 2-time All-ACC first teamer.
Ss Isaiah Johnson and Jemea Thomas lead the team in tackles, although Tech’s defense ranks no higher than 47th in any NCAA stat category, allowing 387.0 total yards and 29.9 points.
The game will air live nationally on CBS.