For the first time in three years, the USC Trojans are going bowling. While it remains a mystery as to where exactly they’ll land, the bowl picture can be reasonably limited to three bowl games: the Holiday Bowl, the Sun Bowl and the Las Vegas Bowl.
Bids are determined by the bowls based on both the standings within a conference and the draw to sell tickets, as the bowls are able to decide on teams within one game of each in the conference standings. USC finished 5-4 in the Pac-12, tied with Washington and Arizona State, and one game back of UCLA and Oregon State, meaning that it’s conceivable that the Trojans could jump the Beavers if a bowl game sought that decision to be necessary.
Here’s a breakdown of the potential suitors, bowl by bowl, in order of their selection:
Date:December 27, 2012 | San Diego, Calif.
Conference bids: Pac-12 No. 3 vs. Big 12 No. 5
While both Oregon State and UCLA finished ahead of the Trojans at 6-3 in conference, the allure to bring a Los Angeles school to San Diego is significant since neither USC or UCLA has ever played in the Holiday Bowl since its inception in 1978. That creates a decision that could be predicated on what the Alamo Bowl does, as it has the first non-BCS selection of Pac-12 teams. The Alamo Bowl will likely select the loser of the Pac-12 Championship Game, as a 10-3 Stanford team or a large UCLA fan base would be the biggest draw in San Antonio, and more so than Oregon State. That means that the Holiday Bowl will likely be deciding between Oregon State and USC. If UCLA or USC is on the table, they would be hard pressed to pass up a hometown crowd, especially since the Poinsettia Bowl seeks out the opportunity to host San Diego State or Navy for the same reasons. Now, for some debunking history, the Holiday Bowl went chalk and chose second place Arizona in 2009, when USC finished fifth in the Pac-12, but one-game behind the Wildcats.
Date:December 31, 2012 | El Paso, Tex.
Conference bids: ACC No. 4 vs. Pac-12 No. 4
If the Trojans are still on the table when the Sun Bowl gets their choice, they’ll likely be choosing between USC, Washington and Arizona State. Given USC’s national draw and traveling fan base, the Trojans would appear to be the front-runner over UW and ASU. And if was still up for debate as to which school the Sun Bowl was clamoring for, just check out the official Hyundai Sun Bowl Twitter feed, as it’s full of mentions with USC fans. That pretty much tips off their hand. The Trojans haven’t been to El Paso since 1998 and if they wind up in the Sun Bowl, they’ll face an ACC team, which would be either Virginia Tech, N.C. State or Georgia Tech.
Las Vegas Bowl
Date:December 22, 2012 | Las Vegas, Nev.
Conference bids: MWC No. 1 vs. Pac-12 No. 5
Much like the Sun Bowl, if USC is available, the Vegas Bowl should be eager to take the Trojans over Washington or Arizona State. USC last played in the Vegas Bowl in 2001 –Pete Carroll’s first bowl game at Troy– and while it would be ironic for Lane Kiffin’s first USC bowl to be a recreation of history, it’s hard to see both the Holiday Bowl and the Sun Bowl resisting the urge to take a national draw like USC. For the Mountain West bid, it would likely be Boise State as the conference winner getting the ticket to Vegas, but it could also be Fresno State should the Broncos falter at Nevada. The Trojans have a bad bowl history against Fresno State, and while Boise State would be fun draw for USC and the Los Angeles media, it would be a dangerous matchup to go up against Chris Petersen’s spread offense.