Holiday Bowl Breakdown

Dale Money   | December 27th, 2019 

It was 2003 in the Orange Bowl, the last time Iowa and USC faced one another. In which Carson Palmer would lead the Trojans past Brandon Banks and the Hawkeyes in a decisive 38-17 win. Kirk Ferentz was the head coach for Iowa in that game and continues to be a mainstay with the team.

Ferentz has come along way since his rookie tenure in 1999 when he led them to a forgettable 1-11 finish. He has since taken them to a Bowl game, in 17 of his 20 seasons with the club. Ranked No. 16 overall they would finish the regular season with a 9-3 record, a victory on Friday would give Ferentz ten wins in six seasons with the Hawkeyes.

No. 22 USC gets another Bowl opportunity after a year of being denied, they lead the all-time series against Iowa by a 7-2 margin which includes a six-game win streak. Clay Helton would take over from Steve Sarkisian as a permanent head coach in late 2015, after having the interim tag removed.

Helton would finish out that season, with a 0-2 record which included a Holiday Bowl loss to Wisconsin. This will be his fourth Bowl appearance with the Trojans. They come in with an 8-4 record on the season, second in the Pac-12 South behind the Utah Utes.

It all kicks off on Friday at 8:00 PM ET, at the SDCCU Stadium in San Diego.


The Trojans would not even get through week one, before losing their opening day starting quarterback JT Daniels to a season-ending ACL injury. Looking for the next man up, they turned to a freshman in Kedon Slovis.

Slovis would not only finish the regular season, leading all freshman quarterbacks in completion percentage and passing yards per game. But would be recognized as Pac-12’s offensive freshman of the year. He would finish the regular season with a bang against the UCLA Bruins, throwing for over 500 yards with four touchdown passes and zero interceptions.

One player Slovis has been able to count on this season has been senior wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. Having been projected to go in the third round at the earliest in 2019’s NFL draft. Pittman decided to return for his senior year at USC, in hopes of improving his draft stock. It has appeared to be a sound investment, as he would finish the season with well over 1,000 receiving along with 11 touchdowns on 95 receptions.

As of now, Pittman is being projected as high as a top 5 wide receiver in the 2020 Draft, so look for him to try and put the icing on the cake by finishing out his college career with a solid performance. Amon-Ra St. Brown and Tyler Vaughns add some quality comfort behind the stud receiver, both players have over 800 yards and 6 touchdowns apiece.

Ranked 17th in total offense expect the Trojans to stick with their bread and butter, by focusing heavily on their lethal sixth-ranked passing game, whenever possible. They not only have had plenty of issues with the ground game this year, ranked 110th in the country in rushing offense. But they will also be facing a Hawkeye’s run defense which is ranked 24th overall.

USC’s leading tailback Vavae Malepeai did have a somewhat decent day in the season finale against UCLA, picking up 60 yards and two touchdowns on 10 attempts.  However, I really don’t see them risking too much on the ground against Iowa.


The Hawkeyes did not get here through a dynamic offensive attack, that much is evident. As they do not have one player that hit 700 yards either through the air or on the ground this season. However, what they do have is a solid three-year veteran starter, in Nathan Stanley. Not only does Stanley have that big arm, but he has been one of the best at the quarterback sneak, running 23 of them for 82 yards.

Stanley has certainly left his mark on the team’s football program, currently ranked second on the all-time Hawkeyes list in both career and single-season passing touchdowns. I’m sure he would love to finish his college career with a perfect 3-0 bowl record before he leaves for a potential career in the NFL.

They will need to be able to move the ball down the field against USC if they hope to accomplish that. Iowa cannot survive another passing day like they had against Nebraska, a game in which Stanley threw for just 99 yards. They will have a wide receiver, Brandon Smith, back for this game. 

Can they get their rushing attack of Mekhi Sargent and Tyler Goodson involved, and take some pressure off the quarterback’s shoulders. In the last number of games, it has been Goodson that has taken over the reins as the lead back. It was in the game against the Cornhuskers he ran for over 100 yards and a touchdown. A solid day from him would go along way to calming the waves.

Not only are they allowing the fifth-fewest points per game in the NCAA with 13.2. But they are very effective in stopping the opposing runner as well as the opponents through the air. Ranked in the top 25 both in passing and rushing defense.

The secondary is riddled with guys that can make it hard on a quarterback, they have seven players with an interception, and three of those players have at least two. Defensive backs Michael Ojemudia, Jack Koerner and Matt Hankins have also combined for 16 defended passes.

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Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images



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