Las Vegas Bowl: Fresno State will be high on emotion

Graham Watson

Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl
Fresno State vs. USC
Las Vegas
Dec. 21, 2013

It’s rare to have such a good game so early in the bowl season, but this could be a really fun contest. Fresno State started the season as a BCS buster and would have been playing in one of the coveted BCS bowls had it not been for a late-season loss to San Jose State. One might think that dropping from the BCS to Las Vegas might be a downer, but the opponent is what will get the Bulldogs fired up for this one.

There’s probably a good portion of the Fresno State team that grew up watching USC, wishing they were playing for USC and then never got a sniff during recruiting.

That was part of the motivation the last time these two teams met – a nonconference game in 2005 – when USC edged out a 50-42 victory.

But just being fired up might not be enough to compensate for a terrible defense. The Bulldogs rank 91st nationally in total defense and are allowing 29.1 points per game. The Bulldogs, which have a fantastic offense led by quarterback Derek Carr, have played several shootout games this year and USC has the offensive firepower to match the Bulldogs toe-to-toe. However, the Trojans have the second-best defense Fresno State has faced this season. The best was in the Mountain West title game against Utah State and the Bulldogs were able to squeak out a 24-17 victory.

In the end, USC's performance in this game is going to be about whether or not it's fired up to play. It has to be excited that it made a bowl given the way its season began, but losing coach Ed Orgeron, who was the emotional leader of the Trojans run to a nine-win season, will have some sort of effect and probably not a positive one.

MASCOT FIGHT

You hate to see gladiator-on-animal abuse, but that would be the case here. It would be tough for a fat, squatty dog to take on a muscular man, covered in armor and wielding a sword. It’s definitely not a fair fight.

PREDICTIONS

Graham: Fresno State 28, USC 24. I’m in the camp that USC, which has gone on an emotional roller coaster this year, will have a tough time matching the emotion of Fresno State. It will be close, but Derek Carr gets it done in his final game.

Nick: Fresno State 44, USC 42 In a stunning heel turn, Ed Orgeron runs out on to the field with the Fresno State coaching staff and coaches the Bulldogs to the upset win and buys them all casino buffets after the game.

Sam: Fresno State 34, USC 30. Fresno State will feature the Derek Carr to Devante Adams connection early and often. They'll connect for at least two scores and jump out to an early lead. USC, with Clay Helton -- its third coach of the season -- leading the way, will come up just short in a second half comeback.

- - - - - - -

Graham Watson is the editor of Dr. Saturday on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email her at dr.saturday@ymail.com or follow her on Twitter!