USC Trojans vs. Wisconsin Badgers, Wednesday Dec. 30, 10:30 p.m. ET
What we have here is surely a long-awaited rematch of the 1963 Rose Bowl. In that game USC maintained their No. 1 rank in the country by beating No. 2 Wisconsin 42-37. In the first-ever meeting of the top-two ranked teams in a bowl game, Wisconsin fought back from a 42-14 fourth-quarter deficit but fell just short in what is thought to be one of the best bowl games ever played. Of course, since neither of the coaches were even born in 1963, and the parents of several players in this Holiday Bowl likely weren't born, either, avenging this loss isn't likely to be a big motivating factor in the game. If you prefer you could call this a revenge match for the 1953 Rose Bowl - USC beat Wisconsin in that much-less-thrilling game.
Holiday Bowl Betting Storylines
You can't talk about USC without talking about chaos. It seems to surround this program constantly. We'll talk about the coaching in a bit, but we need to deal with a couple of player situations first. First, defensive star Su'a Cravens became the latest player to partake in the odd trend of announcing that they are departing early for the NFL before they have played their bowl game. It leads me to question both his focus on this game and the potential distraction it could be for the defense. More significantly, the team could face a real disruption to their offensive line. Starting left tackle Chad Wheeler has missed the start of bowl practices after a strange incident with police. Officers reportedly had to forcefully contain him, and he was checked into a hospital for assessment. As I write we don't know his status, but it is tough to be optimistic. If he isn't available the line will have to be shuffled, and guys will have to play out of their ideal position. It's a real concern.
And then there is the coaching situation at USC. I'm not going to dwell on my personal opinion that Clay Helton was a horrible hire that is far from what the program needs to get out of this extended period of underwhelm. What is relevant right now is the massive changes in the coaching staff. Helton just promoted Tee Martin to replace him as offensive coordinator. He completely cleaned house on his defensive staff, and he does not have the replacements in place yet. The timing of all the moves is odd, and it signals that Helton seems to have an eye on next year much more than a focus on being at his best in this game.
I'm clearly negative about USC, but I find it very tough to like the Badgers, too. There isn't a team in the country with a more misleading record than the 9-3 Badgers. On the surface it's a strong record in the first year of yet another new coaching regime. The problem, though, is that they played just three teams that wound up having winning records, and they lost to all three - Alabama, Iowa and Northwestern. The Big Ten's divisional structure makes it possible for teams in the West division to have a very soft schedule if things work out the right way. What we know about the Badgers, then, isn't much - they are good enough to beat teams that they absolutely should beat but are otherwise unproven.
Holiday Bowl Odds and Betting Trends
The game opened with USC favored by the key number of three points. It has largely stayed at that level, though 3.5 is now starting to be the norm. An overwhelming majority of the action has been on the Trojans - more than 80 percent of bets - so the movement isn't a surprise. Things are acting as they should. The total is 50.5.
The "over" is 4-0-1 in the last five neutral-site games the Badgers have played. They have gone "under" the total in their last four against teams with a winning record, though. The Trojans allowed 41 points in their last game, but that could be a good thing - they are 8-0 ATS in their last eight following a game in which they allowed at least 40.
USC vs. Wisconsin Holiday Bowl Expert Picks & Predictions
I hate this game from a betting perspective and would prefer to look elsewhere instead of trying to make a play on it. If I had to choose, though, I would lean towards Wisconsin. The Trojans don't seem interested in this game, and they are facing some issues. They have better talent, but have been inconsistent, and I really struggle to trust them.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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