It appeared that the Alamo Bowl would select the Trojans even if Utah was available. That wasn’t the case Sunday as the Utes were passed over for a New Year Six at large bid and the San Antonio bowl game ultimately took Utah due to their second place finish in the Pac-12. From there it was obvious that the Trojans were going to have post-christmas plans in San Diego.
USC finished the season with an 8-4 record. Despite their early losses to BYU, Notre Dame, and Washington the Trojans held the lead in the Pac-12 South for a good portion of the season thanks to a 30-27 win over Utah. However, a blowout home loss at the hands of Oregon would put the Trojans behind the Utes for the remainder of the season. USC finished strong with wins over Arizona State, Cal, and UCLA.
While this season hasn’t gone the way some fans had liked, USC making the Holiday Bowl is still an improvement when you compare it to the 2018 season where the Trojans went 5-7 and didn’t qualify for a bowl game.
This will be the third time ever that USC participated in the Holiday Bowl. The first time came in 2014 where the Trojans defeated the Nebraska Cornhuskers in a high scoring affair. The following year USC returned where they faced the Wisconsin Badgers. It was also Clay Helton’s second game since being named the head coach for the Trojans. In that game USC came up short against the Badgers 23-21.
Their opponent, the Iowa Hawkeyes, come in to the Holiday Bowl with a 9-3 record with losses against Michigan, Wisconsin and Penn State. They handed Minnesota their first loss of the season at home. In his 21st year with the program, head coach Kirk Ferentz has the No. 19 Hawkeyes playing tough and competitive football. All of their losses were by a combined 14 points. They bring a balanced offense that keep opposing defenses on honest.
This matchup will feature a contrast of two different styles on the field. USC brings their air raid offense led by Kedon Slovis and the USC wide receiving group that features Biletnikoff award finalist Michael Pittman Jr., Tyler Vaughns, Amon-Ra St. Brown, and Drake London. Iowa, on the other hand, will feature an offense with a good balance between the run and passing game.
This year’s meeting between USC and Iowa will be their 10th all time with the Trojans leading the series 7-2. The last time the Trojans and Hawkeyes met was the 2003 Orange Bowl. Led by Heisman trophy winning quarterback Carson Palmer, USC used a 28-7 second half run to defeat Iowa 38-17 in Miami.
Iowa opens as a 2.5 favorite over the Trojans. USC is 6-5-1 against the spread this season, but hold a lowly 1-3 record as underdogs this season with their lone win coming against Utah at home. The Trojans also hold one of the best all-time bowl records in college football at 35-19. Alabama currently has the most with 40 bowl wins in program history. The last bowl game the Trojans participated was the 2017 Cotton Bowl where USC was handley defeated by the Ohio State Buckeyes 24-7.