5 things to know about Iowa's Holiday Bowl opponent: USC
It’s a B1G-Pac-12 matchup in San Diego, as Iowa and USC meet in the Holiday Bowl this year. It’ll be the Hawkeyes first trip to California since the Rose Bowl visit at the end of the 2015 season.
The Holiday Bowl features a battle of a few teams who were a few plays away from potentially competing for a conference title and getting to the 10-win mark during the regular season. It should be a pretty fun matchup of clashing styles on the West Coast.
Iowa and USC have met nine times, with the Trojans owning a 7-2 series lead, with the most recent meeting being a 38-17 USC win in the 2003 Orange Bowl. So, it’s been awhile since the two programs have squared off, and a lot has changed in nearly two decades.
Here are five things to know about USC before the Holiday Bowl showdown with Iowa on Dec. 27:
Run defense is an issue
USC really struggled to stop the run game at times this season. The Trojans surrendered 150 yards or more on the ground six times this season, and gave up 200-plus to the likes of Notre Dame, Utah and Fresno State. Allowing 166.6 yards per game on the ground ranked ninth in the Pac-12 and 76th nationally. That’s never a good statistic with a B1G team — especially one with a solid offensive line — on the horizon.
Top 5 passing offense
Even without JT Daniels for essentially the entire season, USC still ranked fifth nationally in passing offense, averaging 335.9 yards per game through the air. Freshman Kedon Slovis did an excellent job when he was pushed into the starting job and has completed nearly 72 percent of his passes while throwing for 3,242 yards and 28 touchdowns. This is also a team that had four receivers total 500 yards or more receiving. USC is an explosive team, capable on hitting big plays many times throughout the course of a game.
A beast at wide receiver
Speaking of that passing game, Iowa’s secondary will be tested trying to defend Michael Pittman Jr. (assuming he plays). Pittman had a monster year, totaling 95 receptions for 1,222 yards and 11 touchdowns. That yardage total ranked first in the Pac-12 and sixth nationally. He’s an excellent route-runner and is a threat to catch short passes as well as stretch the field. He’s caught 10 passes or more for 100-plus yards in each of the Trojans’ final three games.
Losing (ball) control
The offense has really had trouble hanging onto the football this season. The Trojans turned the ball over 23 times through the course of the season, which ranked 114th nationally. In the four losses this season, USC was -8 in the turnover category, and lost the ball 10 times in those games.
Like Iowa, USC is no stranger to close games. Six of the Trojans games were decided by one possession, with USC going 4-2 in those games, with win over Fresno State, Utah, Colorado and Arizona State. The Hawkeyes also found themselves in several close battles this season, with seven games being decided by a touchdown or less. Iowa was 4-3 in those game. If this one is close in the fourth quarter, it should be interesting to see which team makes the clutch plays in the crucial moments.