USC will have the chance to finish the season on a high note, as the Wisconsin Badgers will visit the Trojans December 30th in San Diego. The Badgers come into this game with a 9-3 record, which placed them in third in the Big Ten West. Despite a solid record in a respectable conference, Wisconsin is not as dominant as their numbers look with nine of those wins against teams that combined for 34-73 (.466). Wisconsin can credit their success to the strength of their schedule but also a hard-nose defense that allowed only 13 points a game this season. That defense will be tested against an offense full of playmakers that has the ability to air it out and get it done on the ground. The Trojans will have the upper hand in this matchup and Helton needs to make a statement in this bowl game.
Bring Different Blitzers To Crash The Party
Despite the Trojans inability to get to the quarterback consistently, USC should still bring the house on first down and crucial third down moments. This defense is facing an inconsistent quarterback in Wisconsin's Joel Stave, whose season has been derailed by interceptions and poor performances. Stave has the tendency to lose control on third down, as he carries a 48.5 completion percentage and five interceptions. Stave's offensive line doesn't help so much either due to him being sacked six times from the result of different blitz packages that has tied up their communication at times. If the Trojans' front seven can disguise and throw off Joel in pre-snap, then expect USC to get off the field a whole lot earlier than expected.
Hold The Run To The Minimum
After allowing Christian McCaffrey to rush for 207 yards in the Pac-12 game on 32 carries, the Trojans will face a running back duo a lot bigger and stronger than McCaffrey. Dare Ogunbowale leads Wisconsin's backs with 769yds and seven touchdowns, mainly due to his strong running ability. Dare keeps his legs moving through contact, which makes it hard for one to bring him down on the first try. He can use his strength to run through defenders or his speed to outrun them, as his longest run has been 35 yards.
His partner in running is freshman tailback Taiwan Deal, who punishes defenders with his 6'1 220lbs frame. On 115 carries, Deal has run for 495 yards and six scores to contribute to the powerful running game of the Badgers. Second team All-Big Ten senior tackle, Tyler Marz and a hungry offensive line will lead Wisconsin's running game. The Badgers average 148.1yds/game on the ground and will look to increase that average against a Trojan defense that allows 147 yds/game. USC's linebackers will have to play lights out, swarming to the ball and closing off gaps against a big Wisconsin line. Antwaun Woods and the defensive line will need to execute their stunts and get to the running back to maintain the drives.
Score, Score, and Score
The Trojans' offense will matchup against a very tough Wisconsin defense, led by All-Big Ten Freshman linebacker T.J. Edwards and redshirt senior safety Michael Caputo. The run game and pass will have to make every play count as they face one of the top defenses in points allowed. Justin Davis and the running back unit is the core of this offense, as the No.4 run defense in the country will test them heavily with linebackers T.J. Edwards, Vince Biegel, and Joe Schobert. Wisconsin allows only 97yds/game on the ground and can really swarm to the ball against an offensive line that has its share of injuries.
Cody Kessler will have to use his arm and big-time in receiver in JuJu Smith as safety Michael Caputo and the secondary allow only 169yds/game. Newly hired offensive coordinator Tee Martin will have to call a series of plays that allow the running game to open up and set up one-on-one coverage against these corners. If Kessler can keep Caputo on his heels and this secondary physically tired, USC will have a great night on offense. Davis and Jones II need to make linebackers miss, as they have the speed and cutting ability to break the game open early for the Trojans. USC will have to convert on third down successfully to keep drives alive, tire out the defense, and create better chances at scoring.
Special Teams Are A Must
For USC to lock up a victory over the Badgers, the Trojans' special teams must win. Adoree Jackson will have the chance to take another punt return to the house and Justin Davis has the ability to give USC great field position. Wisconsin's kick return defense is No.7 in the country, allowing only 17 yards a return. USC's kicking units will have to be sound and physical, as the Badgers' kickoff return unit averages only 19 yards a return. If USC can force bad field position for the Badgers it will thin out Wisconsin's gameplan on offense and force Stave to go to the air earlier than desired.