The 2019 Holiday Bowl will feature two teams ranked in the Top 25 in No. 22 USC Trojans and No. 16 Iowa Hawkeyes. One of three bowl games outside of the New Years Six bowls to feature two ranked teams. It’ll also feature two complete different styles of football with Iowa’s balanced offense and USC’s air raid pass happy offense. This game will come down to a couple of key match ups that fans should pay attention to. Here are a few that couple shape the outcome of Friday’s game.
USC wide receivers vs Iowa Secondary
This will be one of the more intriguing match ups of the day and arguably the whole bowl season. Iowa’s defense allow’s 13.2 points per game while USC averages 33.2 points per game. Large part of the Trojans scoring comes from their passing game. Graham Harrell’s offense is led by freshman quarterback Kedon Slovis, who's played outstanding the last few games of the regular season. The key question of the game will be if the Iowa secondary can contain USC’s talented wide receiving group? They’ll have a very tough task doing that job, but the Hawkeyes defense is no joke. The group of Tyler Vaughns, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Michael Pittman, and Drake London have given opposing secondaries issues the last 4 games. One player in the Iowa secondary to keep an eye on is defensive back Michael Ojemudia. The senior safety leads the team in interceptions with 3 and 7 pass break ups. Iowa could have him over the top of Pittman to take away the Trojans jump ball threat and force Slovis to nickel and dime them down the field.
Iowa Running Game vs USC Front seven
USC has struggled against the run this season on several occasions. However, the last couple of games have been an improvement. The Iowa running game presents another challenge for the Trojans front seven. Their balanced attack features a good dosage of the run and features two man running game in Hawkeyes running backs Tyler Goodson and Mekhi Sargent. Both have over 500 yards rushing on similar amount of carries. USC is prone to reverses and outside runs, so look for Iowa to exploit that. Again the Trojans interior of Jay Tufele and Marlon Tuipulotu have done a solid job against the run late in the season.
Iowa DE AJ Epenesa/USC RT Jalen McKenzie
Hawkeyes junior defensive end AJ Epenesa is expected to be a first round pick in the upcoming NFL draft. With nine sacks on the season, there’s plenty of reason why scouts believe that. He can get off blocks very well, has good power off the edge, and can play both inside and out on the line. With Jalen McKenzie starting at right tackle in place for the injured Drew Richmond and USC passing the ball a lot, Epenesa could see a lot of opportunities to get to Kedon Slovis. McKenzie will have a tough task blocking the junior defensive end one on one. look for double team blocks to give Slovis time in the back field.