Badgers to face reigning Holiday Bowl Champion Trojans
SAN DIEGO – The University of Southern California Trojans and the University of Wisconsin Badgers have accepted invitations to play in the 38th annual Holiday Bowl, Executive Director of the San Diego Bowl Games Mark Neville announced today. It marks the first trip to the Holiday Bowl for the Badgers who will face the reigning 2014 Holiday Bowl Champion Trojans, who will be making their second appearance in the bowl game.
The Holiday Bowl kicks off at 7:30 pm PST, Wednesday, December 30th at Qualcomm Stadium and will be televised on ESPN.
This is the 18th consecutive appearance by a Pac-12 school in the Holiday Bowl. A Big Ten Conference team returns for the second time since 1994. In last year’s Holiday Bowl, the Nebraska Cornhuskers staged a valiant comeback effort against the USC Trojans, but were edged out 45-42.
Wisconsin finished the regular season 9-3, with a 6-2 conference record that was good for third in the Big Ten West Division. The Badgers are making their 14th-consecutive bowl appearance, the longest active streak in the Big Ten and tied for the sixth-longest streak in the country.
On offense, UW is led by senior quarterback Joel Stave. Stave has been at the helm for 30 wins during his career, which ties the school record. He ranks second in Wisconsin history in career passing yards, touchdowns, completions and attempts. Stave’s main target this year has been senior wide receiver Alex Erickson, a first-team All-Big Ten choice. Erickson’s 72 catches is second-best in the Big Ten and he needs 76 more yards to become just the fourth player in UW history with 1,000 receiving yards in a season.
The Badgers enter the Holiday Bowl with the top-ranked scoring defense in the country, allowing just 13.1 points per game. Wisconsin also ranks among the top five nationally in pass efficiency defense (second), first downs allowed (second), total defense (third) and rushing defense (fourth). Senior Joe Schobert was named the Big Ten’s Linebacker of the Year and is tied for seventh nationally with 18.5 tackles for loss this year.
“The Holiday Bowl and San Diego are a great destination for our team and fans. I know first-hand what San Diego has to offer from my days with the Chargers and know that our team will have a wonderful experience. It’s a new experience for our fans and one I am confident they will enjoy,” said Head Coach Paul Chryst.
Pac-12 South Division champion USC, 8-5 overall, has won 5 of its last 8 games since Clay Helton was named interim head coach on Oct. 12 and then permanent head coach early last week. Unitas and Senior CLASS Award finalist QB Cody Kessler, who is in USC’s all-time Top 4 in TD passes, completions, passing yards and total offense (above Matt Leinart’s school career records for completion percentage and interception rate), guides an offense that is averaging nearly 450 total yards and 35 points a game. His main target is WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, who is in the Top 15 nationally in receiving yards and receiving TDs. Steady TB Justin Davis and Freshman All-American candidate TB Ronald Jones II, who owns the USC freshman season rushing record formerly held by Heisman winner Charles White, are both within range of the season 1,000-yard rushing mark. Jones is among 15 USC true freshmen to have played in 2015 (6 have started).
USC’s defense has been winning the turnover battle (+0.9, including 14 takeaways since Helton took over), is 15th in the nation in sacks (27 under Helton) and has 5 defensive scores this year. The defense is led by OLB Su’a Cravens and 3-way star CB-WR-RET Adoree’ Jackson (the only player in the country with 300 yards receiving, 500 yards in kick runbacks, 200 punt return yards and 20 tackles), a Hornung Award finalist who has scored TDs via a reception, an interception, a kick return and a punt return.
The Trojans are among the nation’s premier bowl teams, with an overall post-season record of 33-16 (not including 1 win and 1 loss later vacated due to NCAA penalty). USC has lost just twice in its past 11 bowl games.
“We are thrilled to be able to go back to the Holiday Bowl and play an outstanding Big Ten team like Wisconsin. All of us at USC had such a wonderful experience last year in San Diego and we thank the Holiday Bowl committee for inviting us back,” said Head Coach Clay Helton.
“We will bring a motivated Trojan team that is anxious to finish the 2015 season on a high note, and they especially want to do so for our seniors and our fans. We know we’ll have a challenging opponent in Wisconsin, a team USC last played nearly 50 years ago. The Badgers have an unbelievable defense, leading the nation in points allowed and ranking third in total defense, so we will have to be on our game.”
“Last year, we had an overwhelming turnout of Trojan fans at the Holiday Bowl and they were a key factor in our victory, and we expect a similar turnout this year. It’s a chance for our fans to spend the week after Christmas with us in the great city of San Diego, participate in all the fun activities the bowl puts on, and cap it off by watching their Trojans play in what should be a very exciting game,” said Helton.
Tickets for the 2015 Holiday Bowl can be purchased by calling TicketMaster at 1-800-745-3000, or by visiting SanDiegoBowlGames.com. Fans can also purchase tickets at Qualcomm Stadium, Window B, Monday through Friday, 9 am to 5 pm.